Why does pituitary gland disease deserve its own section?
As I mentioned in Pituitary Gland=Master in the Brain Anatomy section, the pituitary gland is responsible for coordinating many of the body’s functions through the production of precursor hormones that influence i.e. either accelerate or brake the production of hormones from the target organs. As the picture alongside shows, there are many organs in the body that are dependent on the pituitary gland to work properly, and if the pituitary gland malfunctions for whatever reason, the chain of events can be very bad for the person involved, and the symptoms that arise may vary significantly, depending on the part of the pituitary that is affected and the reason behind the malfunction.
What types of malfunctions can occur?
When the pituitary malfunctions, typically the hormonal levels of either the pituitary hormone and the subsequent target organ hormones may either skyrocket or deplete to critically low levels as the pituitary loses its ability to maintain how much of its hormones are being secreted. There are three types of symptoms which can affect the pituitary gland, and they include:
- Local mass effects
Hyperpituitarism, as the name suggests, describe the disorder that results from the pituitary gland secreting an excessive amount of hormones. One such cause is a tumour (known as a functional pituitary adenoma), but there are other factors which may lead to this happening within someone.
Hypopituitarism is the opposite of hyperpituarism: instead of pituitary hormonal levels skyrocketing, they fall to the floor. This usually happens when the pituitary tissue has been destroyed or invaded for whatever reason; examples where this can happen are listed below:
- As a reaction to inflammatory processes
- Ischemic injury i.e. loss of blood to the area
- Non-functional pituitary adenomas (i.e. tissue which does not secrete pituitary hormones)
Local Mass Effects
Local mass effects are typically caused by a pituitary adenoma: they tend to affect our sense of vision, and I’ll discuss in more detail in the page Pituitary Adenomas.