Ok, you have a job, you are busy with friends and family, and you may have kids. You are tired -- a lot. Could be not enough sleep, could be you are low on iron, OR it could be a hormone imbalance. Maybe your appetite is off or you are having weird problems controlling your weight, or you have headaches.
When students study medicine they hear about the power of hormones. They learn how these substances regulate the body and how, when their levels go awry, the patient is out of whack.
The symptoms mimic so many other things that it takes detective work -- usually a blood test to analyze your hormone levels, and checking the size and feel of your thyroid gland too. But there’s more. And I wanted to call it to your attention in case you -- or a friend -- has weird, unexplained symptoms that won’t go away.
Let’s start with a little anatomy lesson: at the front of your brain and behind your eyes is a pea-sized gland called the pituitary gland. It is the master gland for the body. And it is not uncommon for tiny non-malignant tumors to form there.
Most of the time the tumors have no effect. But sometimes their size or location can cause imbalance in hormones or even put pressure on the optic nerve and cause blurry vision.
The truth is your primary care doctor or your gynecologist may not think of this right off the bat. And an MRI is needed to spot it.
But you, being a powerful patient, can at least put this possible cause of your symptoms on the table, if you keep having them for an extended time. You can play “Dr. House,” like actor Hugh Laurie on Fox Television.
Treatment for troublesome pituitary tumors has improved. Doctors used to have to go in with scopes by cutting into your gum. Now they can do everything through your nose and, some experts say, be more precise than ever before in making sure they “get it all" as they remove the growth and are careful not to damage any part of your brain.
Recently I interviewed Stacy Rapp, a banker from Washington state, and her doctors from the University of Washington, as they explained the through-the-nose-procedure. Rapp says she now has more energy than ever and her weight is under control. You can find the program, Advances in Surgery for Pituitary Disorders, at this link: http://goo.gl/NFZ1S
If you are tired, of course, you first try getting more rest. If your vision is blurry, you first try new glasses or contacts. But, again, if unusual symptoms persist, have your hormones checked, and ask if just maybe there’s a growth around your tiny pituitary gland. Your doctor may first think you are crazy. Just tell them “Dr. House” gave you the idea.
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, plus transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team.
Patient Power is at www.PatientPower.info and on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Schorr is also the author of “The Web Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis" found at www.websavvypatient.com/
Interview, Anthony DeSantis, MD , Endocrinologist, University of Washington Medicine Health System, Seattle, Wash., 10/23/11
Interview, Manuel Ferreira , Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Neurosurgeon, University of Washington Medicine Health System, Seattle, Wash., 10/23/11
Interview, Stacy Rapp, Pituitary tumor surgery patient, Everett, Wash., 10/23/11
Reviewed October 28, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith