Understanding pituitary conditions
Pituitary conditions occur when the pituitary gland makes too much or too little of a particular hormone. The main cause of pituitary conditions is a non-cancerous pituitary tumour. Other common causes, include head injuries, bleeding in or near the pituitary gland and some medications and cancer treatments. Pituitary conditions can affect people of any age or gender.
Pituitary conditions are generally diagnosed through hormone blood tests and/or brain scans. Treatment options available will ultimately depend on the cause of the pituitary condition. For instance, if there is a hormone deficiency, then this may need replacement with medication. If a tumour is discovered, then pituitary surgery may be required.
There are many types of pituitary conditions. So, we have compiled a listing of the most common types, to help you understand more about them.
Acromegaly occurs when your pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone, due to a pituitary tumour. In most cases, these tumours don’t spread outside of the pituitary gland. Acromegaly is most often found in adults aged 40 to 50 years. Without treatment, it may lead to health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Treatment helps to lower your risk of chronic health problems and improve your symptoms.
Arginine Vasopressin Deficiency (AVP-D)
AVP-D is a condition that causes you to produce large amounts of urine and feel constantly thirsty. The condition occurs because the body can’t make enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH, also called arginine vasopressin). ADH is the pituitary hormone that regulates the water level in your body, by controlling the amount of urine your kidneys produce. Healthy adults produce one to two litres of urine per day. A person with severe AVP-D, who drinks a lot of fluids, can produce up to 19 litres of urine per day.
Cushing’s Disease occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the steroid hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is the main hormone that helps your body to deal with physical stress (such as injury or infection), control blood sugar levels and blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Cushing’s Disease can be hard to diagnose, as many signs are common in other health issues. Symptoms tend to come on slowly over time.
A Craniopharyngioma is a rare, benign (non-cancerous) brain tumour. They can be solid or cystic (fluid-filled sacs). These tumours begin near the pituitary gland, the small pea-sized gland that sits near the base of the brain. Craniopharyngiomas can occur at any age but are most common in children aged five to 15 and older adults over 50. Children with Craniopharyngiomas may grow slowly and be smaller than expected.
Growth Hormone Deficiency
Growth Hormone Deficiency is a condition that occurs if your pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough growth hormone. Growth hormone is a hormone that promotes growth in children and
helps maintain typical body structure in adults. It also plays a role in metabolism. Growth Hormone Deficiency treatment options, include growth hormone medication to restore normal levels.
Hypopituitarism occurs when your pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of one or more pituitary hormones. Your pituitary gland is the size of a pea and sits at the bottom of the brain. This gland releases hormones that control, or play a role in, many of your body’s functions. It also stimulates other glands to release hormones. If your body doesn’t make enough pituitary hormones, other glands that rely on these hormones are also affected.
Non-Functioning Pituitary Tumour
A non-functioning pituitary tumour is a benign (non-cancerous) tumour that develops in the pituitary gland and does not secrete a hormone into the blood stream. A functioning pituitary tumour, on the other hand, does secrete one or more pituitary hormones into the blood stream. The most common symptoms of a non-functioning pituitary tumour are headaches and vision problems, due to pressure on the optic nerve.
A pituitary tumour is an abnormal growth that develops in the pituitary gland. It is also known as an adenoma. Most pituitary tumours are benign (non-cancerous) and less than one centimetre in size. Pituitary tumours can exist for years without causing any symptoms. Occasionally, they are found by chance when you have a brain scan for another reason.
A Prolactinoma is caused by a tumour of the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain. In most cases, these tumours do not spread outside of the pituitary gland. They usually grow slowly, and some don’t grow much at all. Prolactinomas cause the pituitary gland to produce too much of the hormone prolactin. This causes a decrease in the levels of some sex hormones, namely oestrogen and testosterone.
Rathke’s Cleft Cyst
A Rathke’s Cleft Cyst is congenital deformity that develops while the fetus is growing in the womb. It is a benign (non-cancerous) collection of fluid that forms in a gap during the early development of the pituitary gland. This is called the Rathke’s pouch. Usually, this gap closes before birth, as the pituitary gland forms, but in some people, the gap doesn’t close and leaves a space where a cyst can form.