Definition

What is hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism, also known as underactive pituitary glands, is a condition in which the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, does not produce one or more of its hormones or else not enough of them. This condition may occur because of disease in the pituitary or hypothalamus, is a part of the brain that contains hormones that control the pituitary gland. When there is low or no production of all the pituitary hormones, the condition is called panhypopituitarism. This condition may affect either children or adults.

How common is hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism is rare. At any given time, between 300 and 455 people in a million may have hypopituitarism. A number of endocrinologists believe that hypopituitarism is quite common after brain injuries. If this belief is confirmed, then hypopituitarism may be significantly more common than previously believed. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hypopituitarism?

The common symptoms of hypopituitarism are:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Sensitivity to cold or difficulty staying warm
  • Decreased appetite
  • Facial puffiness
  • Anemia
  • Infertility
  • Hot flashes, irregular or no periods, loss of pubic hair, and inability to produce milk for breast-feeding in women
  • Decreased facial or body hair in men
  • Short stature in children
  • Depending on which pituitary hormones are deficient and the severity of the deficiency, signs and symptoms of hypopituitarism may vary.
  • 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 consulting 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 hypopituitarism?

Your pituitary gland may stop its function producing its hormones if it has undergone trauma. For example, if you have had brain surgery, a brain infection, or a head injury, your pituitary gland may be influenced.

Certain tumors can also influence the function of this gland. These include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Pituitary gland tumors (a common cause of hypopituitarism)
  • Hypothalamus tumors

However, sometimes, doctors are not able to figure out what caused a particular case of hypopituitarism.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hypopituitarism?

There are many risk factors for hypopituitarism, such as:

  • Sarcoidosis (a chronic lung disease)
  • Hemochromatosis (a hereditary disease characterized by too much iron in the body)
  • Histiocytosis X (a rare autoimmune disorder where immune cells attack the organs)
  • Stroke
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lymphocytic hypophysitis (an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the pituitary gland)
  • Blood loss during childbirth (Sheehan syndrome)
  • Radiation treatments

Diagnosis & treatment

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

How is hypopituitarism diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some common tests may include:

  • Blood test in order to check your levels of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland, blood test is ordered. Sometimes, they will also check for hormones that your pituitary gland stimulates other glands to release.
  • CT-scan and MRI. These tests can help them figure out if a tumor on your pituitary gland is affecting its function.

Your doctor may prescribe specific medications before doing blood tests. These medications are designed to stimulate your body’s production of specific hormones. Taking these before the test can help your doctor get a better understanding of your pituitary gland function.

Once your doctor has determined which hormone levels are low, they must check the parts of your body (target organs) are affected by those hormones. Sometimes, the problem isn’t with your pituitary gland itself, but rather with these other target organs.

How is hypopituitarism treated?

This condition should be best managed by an endocrinologist. It is believed that there is no single course of treatment for this condition because a number of hormones may be affected. Generally, the primary goal of treatment is to bring all your hormone levels back to normal.

This may involve taking medications to replace the hormones your pituitary gland is not producing properly. And in this case, your hormone levels will need to be checked regularly. This allows your doctor to adjust the doses of medications you are taking to make sure you are getting the amount you need.

In case your pituitary problems are caused by a tumor, surgery to remove the tumor may restore your hormone production to normal. In some cases, eliminating a tumor will also involve radiation therapy.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypopituitarism?

You can reduce your risk by following these useful ways:

Seat belts and airbags

Always wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle. A small child should always sit in the back seat of a car and be secured in child safety seats or booster seats that are appropriate for his or her size and weight.

Alcohol and drug use

Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications that can impair the ability to drive.

Helmets

Wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle. Also wear appropriate head protection when playing baseball or contact sports, skiing, skating, snowboarding, or riding a horse.

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: August 22, 2017 | Last Modified: August 22, 2017

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