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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism is a condition where your pituitary gland does not make enough hormones. The pituitary gland is found under the middle of your brain. Your pituitary gland makes and releases hormones such as prolactin, growth hormone, and thyroid stimulating hormone. It also controls the amount of hormones that other glands make and release in your body. Another area of your brain, called the hypothalamus, is found above your pituitary gland. It sends signals to your pituitary gland telling it which hormones to release, and how much.

What increases my risk for hypopituitarism?

  • Family history or genetic defects
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Health conditions such as a stroke, autoimmune disease, or an infection
  • Radiation therapy or radiosurgery to the head
  • Brain surgery

Which hormones are decreased because of hypopituitarism?

Your pituitary gland has 2 main areas that make different hormones. The anterior pituitary gland is found at the front, and is the larger of the two. The posterior pituitary gland is at the back and stores hormones that are made by the hypothalamus.

  • Anterior pituitary gland hormones:
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) helps your body use energy and deal with stress.
    • Gonadotropin hormones control the level of male and female hormones.
    • Growth hormone (GH) helps your body grow and develop.
    • Prolactin helps a pregnant woman make breast milk.
    • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) helps your thyroid make hormones to control metabolism and use energy.
  • Posterior pituitary gland hormones:
    • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) controls the fluid balance in your body and how much urine your body makes.
    • Oxytocin controls uterine contractions and breast milk production.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypopituitarism?

  • Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Fatigue, weakness, or dizziness
  • Mood changes or depression
  • Infertility, irregular or absent monthly period, or trouble having an erection
  • Dry, pale skin, hair loss, or voice changes
  • Headaches, blurred vision, or partial loss of vision
  • Cold intolerance or a slow heart rate
  • Weight loss or gain without trying
  • Increased thirst or urination

How is hypopituitarism diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about health conditions or injuries you may have had. Your provider may also ask if you have a family history of hypopituitarism. Tell your provider about your symptoms and how long you have had them. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood and urine tests check hormone levels and get information about your overall health.
  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that is taken of your brain. Healthcare providers use the pictures to look at tissue and blood vessels, and check for a brain tumor. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • An MRI takes pictures of your brain to show if you have a tumor or other problems. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Hormone challenge tests are done to check if your hypothalamus, pituitary, and other glands are working properly.
  • Water deprivation test measures how much ACTH or ADH you have in your body. You will be told not to drink liquids for a certain amount of time. Your urine will be measured every 2 hours and your blood will be checked every hour.

How is hypopituitarism treated?

Treatment may depend on what is causing your hypopituitarism. It may include medicine to treat a brain injury, radiotherapy, or surgery to treat a tumor. You may also need the following:

  • IV fluids may be given to increase your blood pressure and correct your body's fluid balance.
  • Hormone replacement is given to replace hormones that are low. The hormones may be given as a pill, injection, or skin patch.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your menstrual period stops or becomes irregular.
  • You get tired very easily.
  • You have sudden weight gain or loss after you start treatment.
  • Your have mood changes or become depressed.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I or someone close to me seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have sudden loss of feeling in an arm or leg.
  • You are confused, or have a hard time speaking.
  • You have a severe headache, dizziness, or vomiting.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You lose consciousness.
  • You have sudden blurred vision or loss of vision.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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