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An Overview of the Pituitary Gland

  • Posted on- Aug 25, 2015
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The pituitary gland, commonly known as the “Master Gland,” helps regulate the function of other endocrine glands such as the thyroid gland, testes, ovaries, adrenal glands. However, it does not call all the shots. In some cases, the hypothalamus directs the pituitary gland to stimulate hormone production. Basically, the pituitary works on orders given by the hypothalamus.

Situated at the base of the brain, the pituitary gland is not more than a size of a pea. Hypothalamus and pituitary are located next to each other, connected by the pituitary stalk.

The pituitary gland is composed of the anterior lobe and posterior lobe. The anterior lobe has the responsibility of producing and releasing hormones. The posterior lobe does not produce anything but releases the hormones into the circulation.

Hormones of the Pituitary Gland

A basic fundamental of the pituitary gland is to send signals to other endocrine glands to stimulate their own hormone production. For instance, in a stressful situation, the anterior pituitary lobe will release ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) to instigate cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

The anterior pituitary lobe acts only after receiving inhibiting hormones from the hypothalamus. These hypothalamic hormones then direct the anterior lobe whether to release or stop a particular hormone.

Anterior Lobe Hormones
  • ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone): This hormone prompts the adrenal glands to produce hormones.
  • FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone): This hormone works in coordination with the Luteinizing hormone to maintain functioning of the ovaries and testes.
  • LH (Luteinizing hormone): This hormone works in coordination with the Follicle-stimulating hormone to ensure normal functioning of the ovaries and testes.
  • GH (Growth hormone): This hormone is necessary for maintaining a healthy body composition and growth in children. It helps healthy bone and muscle mass development and affects fat distribution in adults.
  • Prolactin: This hormone aids breast milk production.
  • TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone): This hormone prompts the thyroid gland to produce hormones which maintains body’s metabolism levels.

Posterior Lobe Hormones
  • ADH (Anti-diuretic hormone): ADH stimulates the kidneys to boost water absorption in the blood.
  • Oxytocin: This hormone helps the uterus to contract during child birth and instigates breast milk production.

Diseases associated with the Pituitary Gland

The most common disease linked with the pituitary gland is pituitary tumors and many adults suffer from it. It is neither life threatening not harmless. These tumors interfere with the gland’s normal ability to release hormones.

Pituitary tumors are of two kinds- secretory and non-secretory. Secretory tumors release excess hormones while non-secretory does the opposite (less hormone production). These hormonal imbalances can lead to health complications in other parts of the body. For instance, if you have a secretory tumor that is overproducing thyroid-stimulating hormone, you will suffer from hyperthyroidism.

If you think you have a problem with your pituitary gland, it’s better to consult a qualified endocrinologist. He/She will diagnose and treat your hormone related condition.

The pituitary gland is constitutional to the overall function of endocrine system and health of your body. By working in coordination with the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland makes sure all your body’s internal processes are in order.