Pituitary Disorders

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ in the brain just above the back of the nose. In addition to producing several important hormones including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin and growth hormone, the pituitary gland controls hormones made by other endocrine glands, such as cortisol.

Sometimes, health issues occur if the pituitary gland produces an inappropriate amount of hormones for your body’s needs, or if abnormal cells develop in the gland. Mercy physicians diagnose and treat a wide range of pituitary disorders. Below are a few of the most common.

Pituitary Tumor

A pituitary tumor develops when abnormal cells grow in the tissues of the pituitary gland. Very few pituitary tumors are cancer, but some make more than the normal amount of one or more hormones, which can cause symptoms

Mercy physicians develop customized treatment plans for patients with pituitary tumors depending on the type of tumor, whether it is causing problems, and the patient’s individual health history. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, drug therapy or a combination. In the rare case of a cancerous pituitary tumor, our endocrinologists and oncologists will work together to determine the best plan of care.

High Prolactin

In women, the hormone prolactin helps to regulate menstruation. If a woman’s prolactin levels are too high, her menstrual periods may become irregular. In men, high prolactin may interfere with their sex drive or ability to get or maintain an erection, a condition known as erectile dysfunction.

We measure prolactin levels with a simple blood test. If your prolactin level is too high, we may prescribe medication to bring it back within normal ranges. Low levels of prolactin usually do not cause symptoms or require treatment.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome is a rare disease caused by too much cortisol. When cortisol production is too high for too long, it can cause problems such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Glaucoma

If Cushing’s syndrome is caused by a pituitary tumor that produces too much cortisol, surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended.

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a rare disease that develops when damage to the pituitary gland disrupts the normal production of the hormone vasopressin, which helps control the volume of water in the body. As a result, the kidneys remove too much fluid from the body in the form of increased urine that is insipid, meaning it is very diluted and has no odor. Diabetes insipidus is not related to type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

If diabetes insipidus is caused by a pituitary tumor, we generally recommend surgery to remove the tumor, and may prescribe medication as needed.

Should you be diagnosed with a pituitary gland disorder, Mercy’s physicians and endocrinology specialists will determine the cause of your condition, and develop a personalized treatment plan to help your hormones and your health get back on track.

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