Pituitary Impairment – Definitions, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Pituitary insufficiency, also known as hypopituitarism, is a deficiency of the production of hormones produced by the pituitary, the endocrine gland of the brain, responsible for the production of many hormones.

Definition of pituitary insufficiency

Pituitary insufficiency, also called hypopituitarism, is characterized by a deficiency of one or more hormone  produced by the pituitary gland .

The pituitary is an endocrine gland (which secretes hormones), located in the brain. The neurohypophysis is located at the level of the posterior part of the brain, whereas the adenohypophysis is at the level of the former part.

An increased risk of death is associated with pituitary insufficiency. This is notably due to a deficiency of corticotrophin hormone (ACTH), produced in insufficient quantity by the pituitary gland.

The development of hypopituitarism can be acute or insidious and affects, in most cases, adults. The underlying causes are, generally, the presence of an adenoma in the pituitary gland, a drug treatment following surgery of the pituitary or in the context of radiotherapy.

The diagnosis of this deficiency of pituitary activity is usually based on the analysis of a blood sample, following stimulation of the thyroid (hormone-producing gland).

Treatments exist in the context of the management of this pathology: hydrocortisone, steroids, growth hormones or desmopressin. These treatments can also vary and evolve according to the period of life (in adolescence, period of important transformations of the individual, or in the context of a pregnancy).

Hypopituitarism can impact every person of any age.

The origin of the disease may be gene mutations encoding the development and functionality of this gland that is the pituitary gland.

The clinical signs of pituitary insufficiency are similar to dysfunctions of the body’s activities, for which the hormones produced by the pituitary play a considerable role.

Causes of pituitary insufficiency

The causes of pituitary insufficiency can be found in mutations of genes coding for the development of the pituitary or in its role of endocrine gland.

Surgery in the pituitary gland, an adenoma (benign tumor) of the pituitary or some treatments, such as radiotherapy, can also be the source of pituitary insufficiency.

Who is affected by pituitary insufficiency?

Each person may be affected by a deficiency of the pituitary gland. In addition, adults are more impacted than children.

Symptoms and treatments of pituitary insufficiency

Symptoms of pituitary insufficiency

Symptoms and clinical signs, related to pituitary insufficiency, usually develop gradually and may be different depending on the patient.

More general signs can be identified with:

  • pallor ;
  • an emotional indifence, apathy ;
  • speech delay ;
  • a consequent hair loss ;

The cortisol deficiency can also be the cause of asthenia (intense fatigue and the whole day), by visible weight loss and without any other underlying reason, hypotension , hypoglycemia , or to a lessening of pubic lust.

It is remarkable that all of these symptoms may go unnoticed at first and be more so in times of stress.

Finally, other consequences on the body can also be visible: fine hair and thin skin, amenorrhea in women, impoverism, low libido in men, etc.

A deficiency of hormones allowing the regulation of nutritional intake can also lead to: a decrease of the muscle mass in favor of the fat mass, inducing an increased risk of overweight and obesity.

A delay in the growth of the child may also be visible.

At the biological level, the results of a blood test can highlight:

  • hypercholesterolemia;
  • an anemia ;
  • hypoglycemia;

Risk factors for pituitary insufficiency

Other than the imputation of a genetic mutation, surgery of the pituitary gland, an adenoma or even radiotherapy, may be risk factors for the development of pituitary insufficiency.

Treatment of pituitary insufficiency

This pathology is treated with hormonal supplements such as:

    • of steroids ;
    • of growth hormones ;
  • of cortisols ;

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