Pituitary Tumors: Symptoms and Causes (2023)


Pituitary tumor

Pituitary Tumors: Symptoms and Causes (1)

Pituitary tumor

Pituitary tumors are tumors that form in the pituitary gland near the brain. These tumors can cause changes in hormone levels. This image shows a smaller tumor called a microadenoma.

Pituitary tumors are unusual growths that develop on the pituitary gland. This gland is a pea-sized organ. It is located behind the nose, at the base of the brain. Some of these tumors cause the pituitary gland to overproduce certain hormones that control important bodily functions. Others can cause the pituitary gland to produce too little of these hormones.

Most pituitary tumors are benign. This means they are not cancer. Another name for these benign tumors is pituitary adenomas. Most adenomas are in the pituitary gland or the tissues around it and grow slowly. They usually don't spread to other parts of the body.

Pituitary tumors can be treated in several ways. The tumor can be surgically removed. Or its growth can be controlled with drugs or radiation therapy. Sometimes hormone levels are controlled with medication. Your doctor may suggest a combination of these treatments. In some cases, observation – also called “wait and see” – may be the right choice.

The type

Types of pituitary adenomas include:

  • Function.These adenomas produce hormones. They cause different symptoms depending on the type of hormone they produce. Functioning pituitary adenomas fall into several categories, including those that cause:
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone.This hormone is also known as ACTH. These tumors are sometimes called corticotrophic adenomas.
    • growing hormone.These tumors are called somatotrophic adenomas.
    • Luteinizing Hormone and Follicle Stimulating Hormone.These hormones are also known as gonadotropins. Pituitary tumors that produce these hormones are called gonadotropic adenomas.
    • Prolactin.These tumors are called prolactinomas or lactotrophic adenomas.
    • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.These tumors are called thyrotropic adenomas.
  • Is not working.These adenomas do not produce hormones. The symptoms they cause are related to the pressure their growth exerts on the pituitary gland, nearby nerves, and the brain.
  • MacroadenomaThese are larger adenomas. They measure about 1 centimeter or so. That's just under half an inch. They may or may not work.
  • Microadenoma.These adenomas are smaller. They measure less than 1 centimeter. That's just under half an inch. They may or may not work.

Pituitary tumors are different from pituitary cysts. A cyst is a sac that may be filled with air, fluid, or other material. A tumor is an unusual mass of cells that can grow over time. Cysts can form on or near the pituitary gland, but they are not tumors or adenomas.


Not all pituitary tumors cause symptoms. These tumors are sometimes found during an imaging test, for exampleMRTor oneTCscanning, it happens for a different reason. If they don't cause symptoms, pituitary tumors usually don't need treatment.

(Video) Pituitary tumors: Symptoms and treatments

Pituitary tumor symptoms can be caused by a tumor pressing on the brain or other nearby body parts. Symptoms can also be caused by a hormonal imbalance. Hormone levels can increase when a pituitary tumor produces too much of one or more hormones. Or a large tumor that disrupts the pituitary gland can cause hormone levels to drop.

Tumor pressure symptoms

Macroadenomas can put pressure on the pituitary gland, nerves, brain, and other nearby parts of the body. This can cause symptoms like:

  • Headache.
  • Eye problems due to pressure on the optic nerve, particularly loss of side vision, also called peripheral vision and double vision.
  • Pain in the face, sometimes including sinus or earache.
  • Drooping eyelid.
  • convulsions.
  • nausea and vomit.

Symptoms of hormonal changes

Cushing's Syndrome

Pituitary Tumors: Symptoms and Causes (2)

Cushing's Syndrome

If left untreated, Cushing's syndrome can result in exaggerated roundness of the face, weight gain around the middle and upper back, thinner arms and legs, easy bruising and stretch marks.

The picture shows a person with acromegaly

Pituitary Tumors: Symptoms and Causes (3)

The picture shows a person with acromegaly

Symptoms of acromegaly include an enlarged face and hands. Changes to the face can cause the brow bone and lower jaw to become prominent, and the nose and lips to become larger.

(Video) Pituitary tumors: Mayo Clinic Radio

low levels of hormones

Macroadenomas can limit the pituitary gland's ability to produce hormones. When this happens, symptoms can include:

  • tiredness or weakness.
  • Energy deficiency.
  • Sexual problems, such as problems with erections and less interest in sex.
  • Changes in menstrual cycles.
  • nausea.
  • Freeze.
  • Lose or gain weight without trying.

high levels of hormones

Functioning pituitary adenomas normally produce a large amount of a hormone. This exposes the body to high levels of this hormone. Rarely, a pituitary adenoma can produce more than one hormone. The following types of functional pituitary adenomas cause different symptoms depending on the hormones they produce.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone-producing pituitary tumors

Pituitary tumors that produce adrenocorticotropic hormone are called corticotropic adenomas. Adrenocorticotropic hormone, also calledACTH, causes the adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol.ACTHTumors cause the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. This causes a condition called Cushing's disease. Cushing's disease is a cause of Cushing's syndrome.

Symptoms of Cushing's disease include:

  • Weight gain and fatty tissue deposits around the middle and upper back.
  • Rounded face.
  • Stretch marks.
  • Thin skin that bruises easily.
  • Thinning of arms and legs with muscle weakness.
  • Thicker or more visible body hair.
  • Slow healing of cuts, bug bites and infections.
  • dark skin areas.
  • Acne.
  • Changes in menstrual cycles.
  • Sexual problems, including problems with erections and less interest in sex.

Pituitary tumors that produce growth hormones

Pituitary tumors that produce growth hormone are also called growth hormone-secreting tumors or somatotrophic adenomas. Too much growth hormone leads to a condition known as acromegaly. Acromegaly can cause:

  • changes to facial features, including larger lips, nose, and tongue; longer lower jaw; and large interdental spaces.
  • growth of hands and feet.
  • thicker skin.
  • More sweat and body odor.
  • joint pain.
  • A deeper voice.

Children and teens who have too much growth hormone may also grow faster or taller than normal. This condition is called gigantism.

Pituitary tumors that produce luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone

Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are also known as gonadotropins. Pituitary tumors that produce these hormones are called gonadotropic adenomas.

It is unusual for these adenomas to produce a lot of hormones, which then cause symptoms. Instead, the symptoms of these adenomas are usually due to pressure from the tumor. When symptoms appear because of too muchTHEEFSH, they affect women and men differently.

Symptoms in women can include:

  • Change in menstrual cycles.
  • fertility problems.
  • Enlargement and pain in the ovaries caused by a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Symptoms in men can include:

  • enlarged testicles.
  • Higher testosterone levels.

Pituitary tumors that produce prolactin

These adenomas are called prolactinomas. Too much of the hormone prolactin can lead to a decrease in the body's levels of sex hormones - estrogen and testosterone. Excess prolactin affects men and women differently.

In women, excess prolactin can cause:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Lack of menstrual cycles.
  • Milky discharge from the breasts.
  • mastalgia
  • fertility problems.
  • Less interested in sex.

In men, too much prolactin can cause a condition called male hypogonadism. Symptoms can include:

  • problems with erections.
  • Less interested in sex.
  • breast growth.
  • fertility problems.
  • Less body and facial hair.

Pituitary tumors that produce thyroid-stimulating hormone

Pituitary tumors that produce thyroid-stimulating hormone are called thyrotropic adenomas. They may also be referred to as thyroid-stimulating hormone-secreting tumors. They cause the thyroid gland to produce too much of the hormone thyroxine, also called T-4. This leads to a condition called hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism can speed up the body's metabolism and cause many symptoms. Some of the most common ones are:

  • weight loss.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • nervousness, anxiety or irritability.
  • Frequent evacuations.
  • Sweat.
  • Tremor.
  • sleep disorders

when to the doctor

If you develop symptoms that could be associated with a pituitary tumor, contact your doctor. Treating pituitary tumors can usually bring hormones back to healthy levels and ease symptoms.

Although rare, some pituitary tumors are hereditary. This means they run in families. In particular, the inherited disease multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1) can cause pituitary tumors. ifMEN 1runs in your family, talk to your doctor about tests that can help identify a pituitary tumor early.

(Video) Pituitary Tumors: Diagnosis, Treatments & FAQs

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pituitary and hypothalamus

Pituitary Tumors: Symptoms and Causes (4)

pituitary and hypothalamus

The pituitary gland and hypothalamus are located in the brain and control hormone production.

(Video) Prolactinoma - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

The pituitary gland is a small pea-sized organ. It is located behind the nose, at the base of the brain. Despite its small size, the pituitary gland affects almost every part of the body. The hormones it produces control important bodily functions such as growth, blood pressure and reproduction.

The cause of uncontrolled cell growth in the pituitary gland that creates a tumor is still unknown. In rare cases, pituitary tumors can be caused by genes you've inherited. But most have no clear hereditary cause. However, scientists believe that changes in genes may play an important role in the development of pituitary tumors.

risk factors

Most people who develop pituitary tumors do not have factors that put them at greater risk of developing these tumors. Environmental and lifestyle choices do not appear to affect a person's risk of pituitary tumors.

Although genetics seem to play a role, most people with pituitary tumors have no family history.

The only known risk factors are several rare inherited conditions that increase the risk of many health problems, including pituitary tumors. These conditions include:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1, also called MEN 1.
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 4, also called MEN 4.
  • Carney-Komplex.
  • McCune-Albright syndrome.


Pituitary tumors usually do not spread to other parts of the body. However, they can adversely affect a person's health. Pituitary tumors can cause:

  • Vision problems, including vision loss.
  • High pressure.
  • high blood sugar
  • bone loss
  • Heart problems.
  • Thinking and memory problems.


When a pituitary tumor presses on a part of the brain called the medial temporal lobe, it can lead to a seizure. This type of seizure is called a partial-onset seizure. These seizures involve a change or loss of consciousness or consciousness. When you have one of these seizures, you appear to be awake. But you stare into space and don't react to your surroundings as usual. You may not remember the seizure after it happened.

Persistently low hormone levels

Having a pituitary tumor or having it surgically removed can permanently alter your body's supply of hormones. As a result, you may need hormone replacement therapy for the rest of your life.

Hypophyseal apoplexy

A rare but potentially serious complication of a pituitary tumor is pituitary apoplexy. This happens when there is sudden bleeding into the tumor. Symptoms include:

  • Severe headache, probably worse than ever.
  • Problems with your vision, including double vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • nausea and vomit.
  • Confusion or other reduced mental function.

Pituitary apoplexy requires emergency treatment. Treatment usually involves taking corticosteroids to reduce swelling around the tumor. You may also need surgery to remove the tumor.

(Video) Pituitary Tumors - Mayo Clinic

By the staff at the Mayo Clinic

November 29, 2022


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