Definition

What is Empty sella syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by enlargement or malformation of a structure in the skull known as the sella turcica. The sella turcica is a saddle-shaped depression located in the bone at the base of skull (sphenoid bone), in which resides the pituitary gland.

In empty sella syndrome, the sella turcica is either partially filled with cerebrospinal fluid and a very small associated pituitary gland lying in the floor of the sella (partially empty sella) or completely filled with cerebrospinal fluid with no visualized pituitary gland (completely empty sella).

When empty sella syndrome is caused by an underlying condition, it’s called secondary empty sella syndrome. When there’s no known cause, it’s called primary empty sella syndrome.

How common is Empty sella syndrome?

Primary empty sella syndrome affects approximately 4 times more women than men. Most cases occur in middle-aged women who are obese and have high blood pressure (hypertension).Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Empty sella syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t have any symptoms. However, if you have secondary empty sella syndrome, you may have symptoms related to the condition that’s causing it.

Many people with empty sella syndrome also have chronic headaches. Doctors aren’t sure if this is related to empty sella syndrome or to high blood pressure, which many people with empty sella syndrome also have.

In rare cases, empty sella syndrome is associated with pressure building up in the skull, which can lead to:

  • Spinal fluid leaking from the nose
  • Swelling of the optic nerve inside the eye
  • Vision problems

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Empty sella syndrome?

Primary empty sella syndrome

The exact cause of primary empty sella syndrome isn’t clear. It may be related to a birth defect in the diaphragma sellae, a membrane that covers the sella turcica. Some people are born with a small tear in the diaphragma sellae, which can cause CSF to leak into the sella turcica. Doctors aren’t sure whether this is a direct cause of empty sella syndrome or simply a risk factor.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, empty sella syndrome affects about four times as many women as it does men. Most women with empty sella syndrome tend to be middle-aged, obese, and have high blood pressure. However, most cases of empty sella syndrome go undiagnosed due to their lack of symptoms, so it’s hard to say whether gender, obesity, age, or blood pressure are true risk factors.

Secondary empty sella syndrome

A number of things can cause secondary empty sella syndrome, including:

  • Head trauma
  • Infection
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Radiation therapy or surgery in the area of the pituitary gland
  • Conditions related to the brain or pituitary gland, such as Sheehan syndrome, intracranial hypertension, neurosarcoidosis, or hypophysitis

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Empty sella syndrome?

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Empty sella syndrome diagnosed?

Empty sella syndrome is hard to diagnose because it usually doesn’t produce any symptoms. If your doctor suspects you might have it, they’ll start with a physical exam and a review of your medical history. They’ll also probably order CT scans or MRI scans.

These scans will help your doctor determine whether you have partial or total empty sella syndrome. Partial empty sella syndrome means your sella is less than half full of CSF, and your pituitary gland is 3 to 7 millimeters (mm) thick. Total empty sella syndrome means more than half of your sella is filled with CSF, and your pituitary gland is 2 mm thick or less.

How is Empty sella syndrome treated?

Empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t require treatment unless it’s producing symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may need:

  • Surgery to prevent CSF from leaking out of your nose
  • Medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), for headache relief

If you have secondary empty sella syndrome due to an underlying condition, your doctor will focus on treating that condition or managing its symptoms.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Empty sella syndrome?

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: February 1, 2018 | Last Modified: February 1, 2018

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