The pituitary gland is responsible for the secretion of many hormones traveling through our bodies and is often referred to as the “control center” because of the many jobs it handles (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pituitarydisorders.html).
The most well-known function of the pituitary gland is growth, but there are many other jobs that the pituitary gland does for us.
For starters, the hormones that the pituitary gland secrete include the growth hormone, which stimulates growth in children and maintains healthy body composition for adults; the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which regulates the body’s metabolism and nervous system activity; and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which is responsible for the way that we handle stress. This is where the ‘fight or flight’ idea comes from. (http://www.hormone.org/Pituitary/overview.cfm.)
When the growth hormone is affected, growth in children is delayed. However, with daily hormone injections, children can receive the growth hormone and start growing at an appropriate rate. When the ACTH hormone is affected, a patient can be prescribed pills in order to combat poor appetite, body aches, weakness and dizziness (http://www.pituitary.org/disorders/).
With proper treatment, many of the aforementioned pituitary disorders can be fixed, and life can continue as normal.
The most common type of pituitary disorder is a pituitary tumor. Tumors on the pituitary gland are rarely cancerous, but they can affect many bodily functions. There are two types of tumors: secretory and non-secretory. Secretory tumors produce too much of one of the hormones previously listed, while non-secretory tumors do not produce enough of a certain hormone. Non-secretory tumors can also cause problems if they are very large, as they might get in the way of the normal functions of the pituitary gland. However, with surgery, over 90% of the tumors in patients have been removed (http://pituitary.mgh.harvard.edu/TranssphenoidalSurgery.htm).
When a secretory tumor produces too much of a hormone, it usually affects other glands as well, such as the adrenal glands or the thyroid. Hormone imbalances in the body are dangerous and can affect other systems in the body.
When a tumor – secretory or non-secretory – causes the pituitary gland to not produce enough of a hormone, the normal functions of the pituitary gland are affected. Sometimes, outside forces such as radiation or surgery can cause the pituitary gland to stop producing the right amount of hormones.
When non-secretory tumors grow very large, they literally take over the small pituitary gland and affect other parts of the brain. Large non-secretory tumors can cause headaches and vision problems in patients. If you think that there is a problem with your pituitary gland, please see an endocrinologist with a specialization in the pituitary gland for guidance. If you would like more information about the pituitary gland and disorders associated with it, please visit http://www.hormone.org/Pituitary/overview.cfm.