Pituitary Disorders FAQs

The pituitary gland may be just the size of a pea, but it’s considered your body’s “master gland.” It sits at the base of your brain, releasing hormones that control other glands and key body functions like growth, metabolism, blood sugar, fertility and more.

What’s a pituitary disorder?

When your pituitary gland makes too much or too little of one of your hormones, you may have a pituitary disorder. It’s essential to seek treatment to restore hormonal balance and keep your body functioning as it should.

How do you diagnose pituitary disorders?

Pituitary disorders are often found when you see your Mercy provider about symptoms. Depending on the type of pituitary disorder and the hormones affected, you may not notice symptoms. But if you do, symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight changes
  • Feeling cold
  • Loss of body hair
  • Menstrual changes
  • Sexual disfunction
  • Headache
  • Vision changes

If your Mercy doctor suspects a pituitary issue, you may be referred to one of our endocrinologists. Your Mercy endocrinologist will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and may order blood, urine or imaging tests.

What does the pituitary gland do?

The pituitary gland controls hormones that affect key body functions, such as:

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone – Stimulates cortisol production, which controls blood sugar, blood pressure, metabolism and other functions
  • Growth hormone – Regulates growth in children, and helps adults maintain normal body structure
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone – Controls thyroid hormone, which affects metabolism, weight and growth
  • Reproductive hormones – Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) both affect the reproductive cycle
  • Oxytocin – Affects childbirth and lactation (breast milk production)
  • Prolactin – Controls lactation
  • Antidiuretic hormone – Controls fluid levels

What causes pituitary tumors?

Pituitary tumors are abnormal cell growths in the pituitary gland. Most are benign (noncancerous) and caused by overproduction or underproduction of hormones. A small percentage of pituitary tumors are caused by gene mutations (changes) inherited from one or both parents.

What’s hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism (or pituitary insufficiency) is a rare disorder caused by the pituitary gland not producing enough of certain hormones. When your body can’t get the hormones it needs, it affects key body functions.

Hypopituitarism can be caused by:

  • Noncancerous pituitary tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Bleeding near or in the pituitary gland
  • Medications
  • Cancer treatment
  • Infections like tuberculosis and meningitis
  • Hypophysitis (inflammation of the pituitary gland)

Can a pituitary tumor be cancerous?

Cancerous pituitary tumors (pituitary carcinomas) are very rare. Few cases are reported worldwide. Pituitary carcinomas can occur at any age but are mostly found in older people. They can spread cancer to the brain, spinal cord or bone near the pituitary gland ― but it rarely spreads to other organs like the liver, heart or lungs.

Find an Endocrinologist

Mercy’s expert endocrinologists can help you manage pituitary disorders and many other endocrine conditions.

Find an endocrinologist near you.