Pituitary tumors are irregular developments that develop in your pituitary gland. Some pituitary tumors cause excessive production of hormones that regulate important functions of your body. Other pituitary tumors can restrict normal functions of your pituitary gland, causing it to produce lower levels of hormones.
The vast majority of pituitary tumors are benign in nature (adenomas). Adenomas remain confined to your pituitary gland and don't spread to other parts of your body.
Symptoms of the pituitary tumor
A pituitary tumor can cause your pituitary gland
to produce too much or too few hormones, which can cause problems in your body. Large pituitary tumors are known as macroadenomas while the smaller ones are called microadenomas. These can put pressure on the rest of the pituitary gland and nearby structures.
Symptoms of pressure from a pituitary tumor may include:
Symptoms related to hormone level changes:
Some pituitary tumors, known as functioning tumors, also produce hormones, causing an overproduction. Different types of functioning tumors can develop in your pituitary gland, each causing particular signs and symptoms and sometimes a combination of them.
Adrenocorticotropic hormone-secreting (ACTH) tumors
ACTH tumors produce the hormone adrenocorticotropin, which prompts your adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol. Cushing's syndrome
results from your adrenal glands
producing too much cortisol. Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome may include:
Growth hormone-secreting tumors
These tumors produce excess growth hormone
. The effects may include:
- Coarsened facial features
- Enlarged hands and feet
- Excess sweating
- High blood sugar
- Heart problems
- Joint pain
- Misaligned teeth
- Increased growth of body hair
Overproduction of prolactin from a pituitary tumor can cause a decrease in normal levels of sex hormones- estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Extreme levels of prolactin
in the blood can affect men and women differently. Symptoms in women may cause:
In men symptoms may include:
Thyroid-Stimulating hormone-secreting tumors
When a pituitary tumor overproduces thyroid-stimulating hormone, your thyroid gland makes too much of the hormone thyroxine. This is a rare cause of hyperthyroidism
or overactive thyroid disease
. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing:
Causes of the pituitary tumor
The cause of uncontrolled cell growth
in the pituitary gland, creating a tumor, remains unknown. A small percentage of pituitary tumor cases run in families, but most have no apparent hereditary factor. Still, scientists suspect that genetic alterations play an important role in how pituitary tumors develop.
Treatments and drugs for pituitary tumor
Treatment for a pituitary tumor depends on the type of tumor, its size and how far it has developed into your brain. Your age and overall health are also taken into account. Because pituitary tumors can cause serious problems by putting pressure on your brain, treatment is inevitable. Early detection of pituitary tumors is key to successful treatment.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of a pituitary tumor usually is necessary if the tumor is pressing on the optic nerves, which can cause loss of vision, or if the tumor is overproducing certain hormones. The success of surgery depends on the tumor type, its location, its size and whether the tumor has invaded surrounding tissues.
- Radiation therapy: This therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy tumors. It can be used after surgery or alone as primary treatment if surgery isn't an option. Radiation therapy can be beneficial if a tumor persists or returns after surgery and causes signs and symptoms that medications don't relieve.
- Medications: Treatment with medications may help to block excess hormone secretion and sometimes shrink certain types of pituitary tumors.
Watchful waiting may be particularly appropriate if you're older or in poor health. Many people with pituitary tumors
function normally without treatment if the tumor isn't causing other problems. If you're younger, watchful waiting also can be an option as long as you accept the possibility of your tumor changing or growing during the observation period, possibly requiring treatment.