Your pituitary gland is the conductor of your endocrine system, signaling to other glands that they should produce more hormones or slow down. In many cases, it produces hormones for those other glands, and sometimes it gets its signals crossed – often because of a pituitary tumor.
The pituitary is no larger than a pea, sitting at the base of the brain, but with its many functions, identifying a problem calls for experienced professionals. At Central Maine Healthcare, our experts understand the complex connections and balances of the gland to help diagnose any problems you may be having and, if needed, put you on the fast track to treatment.
The Pituitary’s Many Jobs
The pituitary gland communicates with the entire endocrine system, producing hormones that:
- Stimulate the adrenal glands
- Stimulate the thyroid
- Control the growth of bones and tissues
- Control sexual function
- Influence female breasts and their milk production
- Regulates water loss by the kidneys
Not surprisingly, with so many diverse functions, defects in the pituitary realm create a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Weight gain or loss
- Loss or increase in body hair
- Erectile dysfunction
- Joint pain
- Enlarged hands and feet
- Loss of vision
Diagnosis & Treatment
To diagnose the problem, your Central Maine Endocrinologist will likely perform a simple blood or urine test to assess hormone levels. Depending on your specific symptoms, we may also recommend an imaging test of the brain, such as CT or MRI.
When the pituitary stops sending signals to other glands to produce their hormones, treatment almost always involves replacing those hormones with medication. The most common types of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are:
- Cortisol replacement in the form of hydrocortisone or similar meds, if the adrenal gland isn’t producing cortisol on its own. We need this hormone on a lot of fronts, most importantly to help us manage our stress.
- Thyroid hormone replacement. The generic form of this medication is levothyroxine, also sold under the brand name Synthroid.
- If you have a sex hormone deficiency, your doctor may prescribe hormone therapy to replace either testosterone or estrogen, whichever is lacking.
- Your body needs growth hormone to stimulate height and the growth of your muscles and organs. Children with too little growth hormone need to supplement it so their bodies will reach their full potential in shape and size. Adults also are prescribed growth hormone for muscle and organ development, but it won’t help them grow taller.
If your doctor diagnoses a pituitary tumor, surgery may be the first treatment of choice.