Non Functioning Pituitary Adenoma

What Is Non-Functioning Pituitary Adenoma?

For many patients, adenomas, or tumors in the pituitary gland, cause hormone-related symptoms, but some tumors do not. These tumors, which are labeled as "non-functioning," do not cause high hormone levels in the blood, but they do create health problems due to their location and size.

A non-functioning pituitary adenoma is an adenoma that does not cause hormone secretion. This is a common type of adenoma and may require treatment in order to limit the symptoms a patient is experiencing. Because they push on areas of the brain, they can cause headaches and disrupt vision. Sometimes the tumors limit the amount of hormone the pituitary gland creates, a condition known as hyposecretion.

While these tumors are relatively common, the good news for patients is that most are not malignant. They are also typically larger tumors, measuring more than 1 cm in size when they are diagnosed. They can grow outside of the pituitary gland and into the sinus cavity, causing the patient's symptoms. Some of these tumors may bleed.

What Causes Non-Functioning Pituitary Tumors?

Patients who have a non-functioning pituitary tumor may not know an exact cause. These tumors develop in the same way that functioning tumors do, but without the hormonal changes. Sometimes, the hormone producing process is interrupted, thus producing no functional hormones. In other cases, the tumor produces a hormone, but the hormone does not get transported into the blood stream. In each of these instances, the tumor causes no measurable increase in hormone levels in the blood, thus earning the name "non-functioning."

Diagnosing Non-Functioning Pituitary Adenomas

Diagnosing these tumors requires a team of medical professionals to determine the causes of the symptoms. If a pituitary tumor is suspected, tests begin with hormonal testing. If the hormone tests show no hormonal changes, then the patient's vision will also be tested to determine if the vision changes have an optical cause. This requires the help of an ophthalmologist. Finally, magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary gland will determine if a tumor is causing the problems or not.

When to See the Doctor

Diagnosing these tumors can be a complex process, particularly because of the lack of hormones in the blood that show the presence of the tumor. If you are noticing changes to your vision or symptoms of hyposecretion, talk to your doctor to determine if a non-functioning pituitary tumor could be the cause.