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Hypopituitary

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Hypopituitary Overview

Hypopituitarism 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 (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.

The pituitary gland sends signals to other glands, for example the thyroid gland, to produce hormones, such as thyroid hormone. The hormones produced by the pituitary gland and other glands have a significant impact on bodily functions, such as growth, reproduction, blood pressure, and metabolism. When one or more of these hormones is not produced properly, the body’s normal functions can be affected. Some of the problems with hormones, such as with cortisol or thyroid hormone, may require prompt treatment. Others may not be life threatening.

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The pituitary gland produces several hormones. Some important hormones include:

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands (glands on the kidneys that produce hormones). ACTH triggers the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol, which regulates metabolism and blood pressure.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a hormone that stimulates production and secretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland (a gland in the hormone system). Thyroid hormone regulates the body’s metabolism and is important in growth and development.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are hormones that control sexual function in males and females. They are also known as gonadotropins or sex hormones and include estrogen and testosterone).
  • Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone that stimulates normal growth of bones and tissues.
  • Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates milk production and female breast growth.
  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) is a hormone that controls water loss by the kidneys.

In hypopituitarism, one or more of these pituitary hormones is missing. The lack of hormone results in a loss of function of the gland or organ that it controls.

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