(Pituitary Insufficiency)


The pituitary gland is in the brain. It produces several important hormones that control the production of other hormones made by glands in the body.
The pituitary gland is responsible for many body functions, including the following:
Hypopituitarism is an insufficient production of one or more hormones. A problem in the pituitary can cause the amount of hormones from other glands to diminish as well.
Pituitary Gland
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There are several factors that may cause this condition:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the chance for hypopituitarism include:


Compression of the tumor on local structures, especially the nerves of the eyes, can cause:
Symptoms often begin gradually and are not specific since hormones control a variety of body functions. They may not be recognized for a while. Specific symptoms will depend on the type and level of hormone affected. For example:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to an endocrinologist. This is a type of doctor that focuses on hormone disorders.
Tests to determine hypopituitarism include taking a blood sample to do the following:
Pituitary function tests may be done such as:
After the diagnosis is confirmed, imaging tests will be done to identify problems such as tumors or abnormal tissue and growth or shrinkage of the pituitary gland. This can be done with an MRI scan.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. This condition is likely permanent, depending on the cause. It will likely need to be treated for life. Treatment options include:


If the condition is caused by a tumor, it may be first treated with medications such as:
  • Bromocriptine
  • Cabergoline
  • Octreotide


Medication may not always work. In this case, surgery may be needed. If a tumor is involved, then it will be removed. Part or all of the gland may be removed as well.
Hormone replacement therapy is needed after surgery or if other hormone deficiencies are found.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

When the target hormone levels are inadequate, they must be replaced. In most cases, therapy does not replace the hormones that the pituitary gland produces. Instead, the hormones of the other target glands that it stimulates are replaced. Examples include:
  • Glucocorticoids (adrenal hormone)—prednisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethasone
  • Thyroid hormone, such as levothyroxine
  • Testosterone (male)—can be replaced with patches, gels, or injections
  • Estrogen and progesterone (female)—can be replaced with oral pill or patches
  • Growth hormone—usually a daily injection
  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH)—can be given as pill, subcutaneous injection, or nasal puff

Radiation Therapy

Treatment with radiation may be used after drug or surgical treatment or if they have failed.


In general, this condition is not preventable. Be aware of the risks and symptoms. This will make early diagnosis and treatment possible.


Pituitary Disorders Education and Support

The Pituitary Society


Health Canada

Thyroid Foundation of Canada


Hypopituitarism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 7, 2012. Accessed February 27, 2014.

Schneider HJ, Aimaretti G , Kreitschmann-Andermahr I, et al. Hypopituitarism. Lancet. 2007;369(9571):1461-1470.

Tomlinson JW. Association between premature mortality and hypopituitarism. West Midlands Prospective Hypopituitary Study Group. Lancet. 2001; 357:425.

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