Pituitary Gland


The pituitary gland is a tiny organ, the size of a pea, found at the base of the brain. As the “master gland” of the body, it produces many hormones that travel throughout the body, directing certain processes or stimulating other glands to produce other hormones.The pituitary gland makes or stores many different hormones. The following hormones are made in the anterior (front part) of the pituitary gland:


This hormone stimulates breast milk production after childbirth. When prolactin is high, it affects the hormones that control the ovaries in women and testes in men. As a result, high prolactin can affect menstrual periods, sexual function and fertility. 


This hormone stimulates growth in childhood and plays a role in  maintaining healthy muscles and bone and well-being in adults. It also affects fat distribution in the body. Too much growth hormone causes a disease that is called acromegaly. In children, too much growth hormone causes excessive growth, called gigantism. 


This hormone stimulates the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands—small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Cortisol, a "stress hormone," is needed for our survival. It helps maintain blood pressure and blood glucose (sugar) levels, and is produced in larger amounts when we’re under stress, especially during  illness, surgery, or after injury. Too much ACTH will result in too much cortisol production; this is called Cushing’s syndrome or Cushing’s disease. Low ACTH will result in low cortisol, called adrenal insufficiency.  


This hormones stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, which regulate the body's metabolism, energy balance, growth, and nervous system activity. Too much TSH is rare and will cause hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone). Lack of TSH results in hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone).


This hormone stimulates testosterone production in men and egg release (ovulation) in women


This hormone promotes sperm production in men and stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and develop eggs in women. LH and FSH work together to enable normal function of the ovaries and testes. Problems with these hormones affects menstrual periods in women and fertility and sexual function in both women and men.

The following hormones are stored in the posterior (back part) of the pituitary gland:

This hormone is also called vasopressin, it regulates water balance in the body and sodium levels in the blood. It conserves body water by reducing the amount of water lost in urine. Lack of ADH causes increased urination and thirst, a condition that is called diabetes insipidus .


This hormone causes milk to flow from the breasts in breastfeeding women, and may also help labor to progress. Oxytocin may also play an important role in human behavior and social interaction and may promote bonding between a mother and her child.

When the pituitary gland doesn't operate in a healthy manner, this can lead to pituitary disorders.

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