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Hypopituitarism Symptoms, Causes & its Treatment

  • Published on September 12, 2022
Hypopituitarism Symptoms, Causes & its Treatment

Background

The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland in the base of your brain. It is the size of a kidney bean and controls all the other hormone-producing glands in the body.

This gland also produces several hormones that have an impact on various parts of your body. When it malfunctions, it could lead to a condition called hypopituitarism.

Hypopituitarism meaning

Hypopituitarism is a rare pituitary gland disorder where the gland fails to function normally. Since this gland produces hormones that influence the functioning of different parts of the body, the disease can manifest itself in different ways.

Hypopituitarism symptoms include abnormal blood pressure, body growth, and reproduction issues, depending on which hormones are deficient or absent.

Types of hypopituitarism

Hypopituitarism definition includes three types of hypopituitarism – primary, secondary, and idiopathic hypopituitarism:

Primary hypopituitarism

Here, your condition is due to a defective pituitary gland and the resulting pituitary insufficiency.

Secondary hypopituitarism

You will experience this type of hypopituitarism if there is damage or a disorder in your hypothalamus. It is a structure within the brain that controls the functioning of the pituitary gland.

Idiopathic hypopituitarism

Your doctor will classify your condition as idiopathic if the cause cannot be identified.

Hypopituitarism symptoms

The pituitary gland produces multiple hormones. Hypopituitarism causes usually comes from a malfunctioning pituitary gland. 

You will experience varied symptoms depending on the particular hormone deficiency. The symptoms will manifest themselves depending on your age, sex, the specific hormones that are deficient, and the rapidity by which your hormones are decreasing.

Here are symptoms according to particular hormone deficiencies:

Hypopituitarism symptoms based on specific hormone deficiency in newborns, children, and adults

Lacking Hormone Symptoms in Newborns Symptoms in Children Symptoms in Adults
Growth hormone Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) Abnormally small penis (micropenis) Slow growth, short height, delayed sexual development Reduced sense of well-being, low libido, high body fat, decreased muscle mass, fatigue
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) Decreased muscle tone, low body temperature (hypothermia), bulging belly, hoarse cry Thinning hair, dry skin, fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, weight gain, constipation, sensitivity to cold temperatures Same as in children except for heavy and/or irregular periods in women
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and/or luteinizing hormone (LH) Abnormally small penis (micropenis), undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) Absent breast development for girls, absent testicular enlargement for boys, lack of growth spurt during puberty Low libido, fatigue, infertility, erectile dysfunction, low growth of facial and body hair.

For women, hot flashes, irregular periods, reduced pubic hair, and absence of breast milk.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH or corticotropin) Hypoglycaemia, low rate of weight gain, seizures, jaundice Fatigue, sudden weight loss, low blood pressure, hypoglycaemia, confusion Same as in children
Antidiuretic hormone (ADH or vasopressin or arginine vasopressin) Vomiting, fever, constipation, frequent urination, weight loss Bedwetting, fatigue, difficulty to toilet train Frequent thirst, frequent urination, electrolyte imbalance
Prolactin NA NA Absence of breast milk following childbirth
Oxytocin NA NA Interrupted breast milk flow, difficulty to bond with the baby, lack of empathy, difficulty interacting with people

 

Hypopituitarism treatment

Initially, your doctor will aim to restore your hormones to normal levels. Hypopituitarism treatment is usually through hormone supplements and injections, and we call it hormone replacement.

In most cases, your body can show a partial or even complete recovery with the correct hormones and dosages.

Some of the medications that you might be prescribed include but are not limited to:

  • Levothyroxine
  • Growth hormone
  • Corticosteroids
  • Sex hormones (testosterone and oestrogen)
  • Fertility hormones

In most cases, patients have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

Hypopituitarism causes

You might wonder why hypopituitarism occurs in the first place. It can happen due to several health conditions.

There are two primary hypopituitarism causes – primary hypopituitarism and secondary hypopituitarism.

Primary hypopituitarism

Primary hypopituitarism is a condition that arises from a disorder of your pituitary gland. It could also occur if there is a defect or malfunction with your pituitary hormone-secreting cells.

Secondary hypopituitarism

This type of pituitary insufficiency doesn’t originate directly from the pituitary gland. It can occur as a result of issues with the hypothalamus or pituitary stalk. It results in pituitary insufficiency.

Conclusion

Hypopituitarism can impact your sexual health adversely and prevent you from leading a healthy sex life. It can reduce your quality of life in other aspects, too.

In case you suffer from the symptoms we have described here, you can visit Birla Fertility & IVF centre or book an appointment with Dr Deepika Mishra, who will conduct suitable tests and recommend a line of treatment to put you on the road to good health.

FAQs

1. Can hypopituitarism be fatal?

Although a rare occurrence, extreme hypopituitarism can lead to death. It is the main reason why you should take this disease seriously. If you are diagnosed with this medical condition or if you even suspect that you may have it, do not neglect it.

Get immediate medical attention. In case of a medical emergency related to suspected pituitary insufficiency, get in touch with your healthcare provider and reach the nearest emergency room immediately to prevent further escalation of your condition.

2. What are the risk factors that can lead to hypopituitarism?

You might develop this condition due to the following reasons:

  • CancerIf you previously had cancer or were subjected to radiation treatment, excessive radiation can cause damage to your pituitary gland.
  • Head or brain trauma: Studies have revealed that individuals who suffered some degree of brain injury developed hypopituitarism from a few months to even 12 years after the trauma.
  • Sickle cell anaemia: Sickle cell anaemia is known to lower the level of pituitary hormones.
  • Type 1 diabetes: Failure to manage type 1 diabetes can result in nerve and vascular damage and eventually result in hypopituitarism symptoms.
  • Genetic mutations: Having a family history of hypopituitarism can also lead to you inheriting this medical issue. 
  • Pregnancy and childbirth: A rare medical condition called lymphocytic hypophysitis sometimes occurs in pregnant women that can cause pituitary insufficiency. It can also occur due to another medical condition called Sheehan syndrome associated with heavy bleeding after childbirth.

3. Is hypopituitarism hereditary?

Occasionally, the origin of hypopituitarism can be genetic. It means that the condition gets passed down across generations. In such cases, the symptoms will appear at birth or in early childhood.

Although there is an increase in genetically-caused hypopituitarism, many congenital cases remain unsolved. There is much research going on in this aspect of the disease.

4. Is hypopituitarism preventable?

You cannot prevent hypopituitarism from occurring. It is important to know the risk factors, which enables early detection and effective treatment during the early stages of the disease.

5. What medication is prescribed for hypopituitarism?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” hypopituitarism treatment in the way you would take paracetamol to fight fever or aspirin if you have a headache. A healthcare provider will prescribe medication depending on the specific hormones that are deficient in your body.

6. Which medical specialist can diagnose hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism is a disease that affects the pituitary gland, which is an endocrine gland. Accordingly, an endocrinologist is a specialist doctor who treats endocrine disorders and will treat your pituitary insufficiency.

Written by:
Dr Puja Singh

Dr Puja Singh

Dr. Puja Singh has been a senior resident at the Hindu Rao Hospital and NDMC Medical College, New Delhi and has been previously attached with Nova IVF Clinic, Ahmedabad in fertility services. She completed her post-graduation in Obs & Gynae from Hindu Rao Hospital & NDMC Medical College, New Delhi. She completed her FNB training in reproductive medicine.She has done fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery from AMASI. Her main area of interest is reproductive medicine. She has done her MBBS & Internship at Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur. She is dexterous and precise in surgical treatment procedures. 

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