The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. It produces hormones that control thyroid function, cortisol levels from the adrenal gland, growth, reproduction, lactation and water balance. Pituitary tumors can lead to growth disorders, infertility, inappropriate lactation and deficiency of all hormones (hypopituitarism).
A prolactinoma is a pituitary tumor that produces extra prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production in breast tissue, and is normally high only during pregnancy and breastfeeding, in women. Patients with prolactinoma may experience milky secretion from the breast, irregular or absent periods, sexual dysfunction and infertility. Treatment usually involves medications that can decrease prolactin levels and shrink the tumor.
Acromegaly results from a pituitary tumor that makes too much growth hormone. Symptoms of acromegaly include coarse facial features, prominent jaw, thickened brow ridge, acne, enlarged hands and feet, and heart problems. Treatment can involve a combination of surgery, medications and radiation.
Hypopituitarism refers to a deficiency of all pituitary hormones. It can result from brain surgery, radiation, tumors, pituitary bleeding or conditions like sarcoidosis. Sometimes, it can result from severe blood loss during childbirth and delivery. Symptoms usually involve fatigue, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, low blood pressure, slow heart rate and feeling cold. These symptoms can occur suddenly or gradually. Because cortisol and thyroid hormone are both essential for life, treatment involves replacing cortisol and thyroid hormone through pills. Additional treatment can involve growth hormone, estrogen and testosterone replacement.
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