Hypopituitarism is a rare disorder in which the pituitary gland produces insufficient amount of hormones or fails to produce one or more of its hormones.
The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain, behind the nose and between the ears. It has a small bean shape; however, it secretes hormones that influence almost every part of the body.
In hypopituitarism, the hormone deficiency can affect any bodily function such as growth, blood pressure and reproduction.
Symptoms of hypopituitarism can be managed with medications, while the condition is treated with life-long medications.
Hypopituitarism is often a progressive disorder; therefore, in most cases, symptoms develop gradually.
Symptoms of hypopituitarism vary relative on which pituitary hormones are deficient and how severe the deficiency is. Symptoms may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Sensitivity to cold or difficulty staying warm
- Decreased sex drive
- Facial puffiness
- Decreased facial or body hair in men
- Hot flashes, irregular or no periods, loss of pubic hair and inability to produce milk for breast-feeding in women
- Short stature in children
In many cases, hypopituitarism is the result of a tumor on the pituitary gland. A pituitary tumor that grows, increasing its size, can compress and damage pituitary tissue thus interfering with hormone production. A pituitary tumor may also press on the optic nerve and interfere with vision.
Possible causes of hypopituitarism may include:
- Head injuries
- Brain or pituitary tumor
- Radiation treatment
- Brain surgery
- Brain infections (meningitis)
- Autoimmune inflammation (hypophysitis)
- Infiltrative diseases (sarcoidosis, histiocytosis X, hemochromatosis)
- Severe blood loss during childbirth
- Genetic mutations that impair pituitary hormone production
- Diseases of the hypothalamus
In some cases of hypopituitarism the cause may be unknown.