What is Hypopituitarism?
When the pituitary gland fails to produce or release one or more hormones, it gives way to a condition known as Hypopituitarism. It is responsible for releasing eight hormones. These hormones play a vital role in the functioning of your body. They help with bone growth stimulation to metabolism control. When one or more of these hormones are not produced or released, it leads to Hypopituitarism. This condition is seen in adults and children alike. The condition presents mild symptoms initially which grows worse as time passes by without any treatment.
The symptoms of this condition depend on which of the hormones is not being produced or released by your pituitary gland. The symptoms and signs also vary from person to person. Some of the commonly seen Hypopituitarism symptoms, due to a deficiency of the growth hormone are:
- Lack of ambition
- Changes in body fat composition
- Muscle weakness
- Social isolation
A deficiency of the Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone causes different symptoms in men and women. Men experience symptoms like mood changes, erectile dysfunction, and decreased facial or body hair. While women experience symptoms like loss of pubic hair, hot flashes, inability to produce breast milk, and irregular or no periods.
A deficiency of the thyroid-stimulating hormone results in fatigue, dry skin, weight gain constipation, and sensitivity to cold. Adrenocorticotropic hormone deficiency causes severe fatigue, nausea, low blood pressure, confusion, and frequent infections. Antidiuretic hormone deficiency causes extreme thirst, excessive urination, and electrolyte imbalances.
Who is at Risk?
Some of the commonly seen Hypopituitarism risk factors include the following:
- Severe loss of blood
- Pituitary apoplexy
- Cranial radiation
- Pituitary surgery
- Hypothalamic disease
- Genetic defects
- Pituitary infarction
- Inflammatory processes such as hypophysitis
- Infiltrative disorders like histiocytosis and sarcoidosis
- Ischemic stroke
- Subarachnoid haemorrhage
- Traumatic brain injury resulting in skull fractures
There are several reported causes of Hypopituitarism. However, in a majority of the cases, it is often due to a tumour of the pituitary gland. As the tumour grows in size, it compresses the pituitary tissue, thereby interfering with hormone production. The tumour may also compress the optic nerves, resulting in visual disturbances. Some other events or disease that can also trigger the pituitary gland to cause hypopituitarism includes:
- Head injuries
- Radiation treatment
- Brain surgery
- Certain medication
- Inflamed pituitary gland
- Infections that may spread to the brain like meningitis, syphilis, etc.
- Lack of blood flow to the brain
- Severe blood loss during childbirth
- Genetic mutation.
A tumour or disease of the hypothalamus which is located just above the pituitary gland may also cause hypopituitarism. However, in some cases of hypopituitarism, the cause remains unknown.
How is Hypopituitarism diagnosed?
If the doctor suspects that you may have hypopituitarism, they will order blood tests to rule out other causes and also to determine which of the hormone levels is lower than normal. The tests prescribed include:
- TSH and thyroxine test
- ACTH stimulation test
- FSH and LH and either testosterone or estradiol Test
- GH stimulation test
Once the doctor comes to a Hypopituitarism diagnosis they may also order a CT scan or MRI of the pituitary gland to determine whether a tumour is a reason behind the condition. Doctors also usually prescribe X-rays for children to check for normal bone growth.
How is Hypopituitarism treated?
The first step in Hypopituitarism treatment is medication to help bring your hormone level back to normal. This treatment method is also known as hormone replacement. The dosages of the medications are set to match the number of hormones your body would be producing if you weren’t having a problem with your pituitary gland. Unless the underlying reason behind the malfunctioning of the pituitary gland is removed, you may have to continue the medication throughout your life. Some of the medications used in the hormone replacement treatment include Corticosteroids, Levothyroxine, Sex hormones, Fertility hormones, and Growth hormone. The medication is prescribed depending on which type of Hypopituitarism you have developed.
The Endocrinologist at Cure.fit will work with you to find a suitable dosage, especially during times of emotional and physical stress. You can consult with them virtually with the help of Cure.fit’s new online video consultation service.
How can Hypopituitarism be prevented?
Unfortunately in most cases, it is not possible to prevent Hypopituitarism. However, being aware of the different risk factors and symptoms to look out will help with an early diagnosis and Hypopituitarism cure. In fact, it might even help detect a tumour on your pituitary gland or hypothalamus which otherwise may have gone undetected till it was too late.