A loss of function of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus results in low or absent hormones. Tumors can cause damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus and can therefore result in a loss of function. Damage to the pituitary gland can also be caused by radiation, surgery, infections such as meningitis, or various other conditions. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
Some people may have no symptoms or a gradual onset of symptoms. In other people, the symptoms may be sudden and dramatic. The symptoms depend on the cause, how fast they come on, and the hormone that is involved.
ACTH deficiency: Symptoms include fatigue, low blood pressure, weight loss, weakness, depression, nausea, or vomiting.
- TSH deficiency: Symptoms include constipation, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, decreased energy, and muscle weakness or aching.
- FSH and LH deficiency: In women, symptoms include irregular or stopped menstrual periods and infertility. In men, symptoms include loss of body and facial hair, weakness, lack of interest in sexual activity, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.
- GH deficiency: In children, symptoms include short height, fat around the waist and in the face, and poor overall growth. In adults, symptoms include low energy, decreased strength and exercise tolerance, weight gain, decreased muscle mass, and feelings of anxiety or depression.
- Prolactin deficiency: In women, symptoms include lack of milk production, fatigue, and loss of underarm and pubic hair. No symptoms are seen in men.
- ADH deficiency: Symptoms include increased thirst and urination.
When to Seek Medical Care
Call the doctor or health care practitioner if any of the above symptoms develop.
Exams and Tests
The doctor or health care practitioner may perform blood tests to determine which hormone level is low and to rule out other causes. The following tests may be performed:
- ACTH and Cortrosyn stimulation test
- TSH and thyroxine test
- FSH and LH and either estradiol or testosterone (whichever is appropriate for the patient)
- Prolactin test
- GH stimulation test
An MRI or CT scan of the pituitary gland may be obtained to determine if a tumor is present.
In children, X-rays of the hands may be taken to determine if bones are growing normally.