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How Does the Normal Pituitary Work?

The pituitary gland produces a number of hormones. Hormones are essential for many aspects of life. Some send messages to other endocrine glands to tell them to increase or decrease production of their hormones. One such example is TSH, which stimulates the thyroid to grow and produce thyroid hormones.

The main hormones produced by the pituitary are:

ACTH            Aadrenocorticotropic hormone.

ADH              Anti-diuretic hormone, or vasopressin         

FSH               Follicle-stimulating hormone.

GH                Growth hormone.

LH                 Luteinizing hormone.

PRL               Prolactin

TSH              Thyroid-stimulating hormone.


Pituitary Conditions

However, misdiagnosis is a common problem and some reports suggest that many more people could have undiagnosed pituitary issues. The most common problem with the pituitary gland occurs when a benign tumour (used to describe a ‘growth’) also called an adenoma, develops. Pituitary tumours are not 'brain tumours'. The term benign is used by doctors to describe a swelling which is not cancerous.Some pituitary tumours can exist for years without causing symptoms and some will never produce symptoms. Most pituitary tumours occur in people with no family history of pituitary problems and the condition is not usually passed on from generation to generation. Only very occasionally are tumours inherited - for example, in a condition known as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN1).By far the most common type of tumour (about half of all cases) is the ‘non-functioning’ tumour. This is a tumour which doesn’t produce any hormones itself. It can cause headaches and visual problems or it can press on the pituitary gland, causing it to stop producing the required amount of one or more of the pituitary hormones. This effect can also happen by the treatment you are given for a tumour, such as surgery or radiotherapy. Alternatively, your pituitary tumour may begin to generate too much of one or more hormones.
Most Common Pituitary Conditions 

  • Acromegaly
  • Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Cushing's Disease
  • Diabetes Insipidus
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Non-functioning tumours
  • Prolactinoma

Rarer Conditions

  • Empty Sella Syndrome
  • Kallmann's Syndrome
  • Rathke's Cleft Cysts
  • Familial Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 1
  • Wolfram Syndrome
  • Septo-Optic Dysplasia
  • Sheehan's Syndrome
  • Lymphocytic Hypophysitis
  • Nelson's Syndrome