What Is an Underactive
Your pituitary gland is located on the
underside of your brain. It releases eight hormones. Each of these hormones
plays its own role in the function of your body. Functions range from
stimulating bone growth to prompting your thyroid gland to release hormones
that control your metabolism.
produced by the pituitary gland include:
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) triggers cortisol production and triggers
the chemical reaction that makes your body produce adrenaline and noradrenaline.
antidiuretic hormone (ADH) controls your blood pressure and conserves the
fluids in your body.
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles
in women and sperm production in men.
growth hormone (GH) makes children grow, and maintains body structure and
metabolism in adults
luteinizing hormone (LH) is responsible for fertility, puberty, and menstruation
is important in childbirth and lactation. It may also play a large role in
has over 300 uses in the body.
thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates the production of hormones in the
your pituitary gland does not release enough of one or more of these hormones.
This is called hypopituitarism.
What Causes an Underactive
pituitary gland may stop producing enough of one or more of its hormones if it
has suffered trauma. For example, if you have had brain surgery, a brain
infection, or a head injury, your pituitary gland may be affected.
tumors can also affect the function of this gland. These include:
gland tumors (a common cause of hypopituitarism)
possible causes of hypopituitarism include:
(a chronic lung disease)
(a hereditary disease characterized by too much iron in the body)
X (a rare autoimmune disorder where immune cells attack the organs)
hypophysitis (an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the
loss during childbirth (Sheehan syndrome)
doctors can’t figure out what caused a particular case of hypopituitarism.
What Are the Symptoms of an
Underactive Pituitary Gland?
of hypopituitarism depend on which hormones your pituitary gland is not
producing enough of. For example, if the pituitary does not produce enough
growth hormone in a child, they may have a permanently short stature.
Alternately, if it doesn’t produce enough follicle-stimulating hormone or
luteinizing hormone, it might cause problems with sexual function,
menstruation, and fertility.
How Is an Underactive
Pituitary Gland Diagnosed?
doctor thinks you may have hypopituitarism, they will use a blood test to check
your levels of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland. Sometimes, they
will also check for hormones that your pituitary gland stimulates other glands
your doctor may check your T4 levels. Your pituitary gland doesn’t produce this
hormone. However, it releases TSH, which stimulates your thyroid gland to
release T4. Therefore, having low levels of T4 indicates that you may have a
problem with your pituitary gland.
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.
doctor has determined which hormone levels are low, they must check the parts
of your body (target organs) affected by those hormones. Sometimes, the problem
isn’t with your pituitary gland itself, but rather with these other target
may also perform imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI scan on your brain.
These tests can help them figure out if a tumor on your pituitary gland is
affecting its function.
How Is an Underactive
Pituitary Gland Treated?
is best managed by an endocrinologist. There is no single course of treatment
for this condition because a number of hormones may be affected. In general,
the goal of treatment is to bring all your hormone levels back to normal.
involve taking medications to replace the hormones your pituitary gland is not
producing properly. 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’re getting the amount you need.
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.