Your Pituitary Gland and the Endocrine System | Revere Health

As the foundation for the body’s endocrine system (a network of glands throughout the body which produce hormones to regulate bodily activities), the pituitary gland is vital for controlling growth of various parts of the body as well as other endocrine glands.

How exactly does this process work? Let’s have a look at some basic information about the most important gland in the body.

What is the Pituitary Gland?

The pituitary gland is a tiny, pea-sized gland and is located near the base of the brain by the optic nerves. There are two lobes on the pituitary gland: the anterior pituitary, the front section, and the posterior pituitary, the back.

Unlike most other glands in the body, which produce specific hormones as long as they’re functioning correctly, the pituitary gland has two distinct purposes.

  1. It emits its own hormones to the body.
  2. It regulates or stimulates other glands in their own hormone production.

If the pituitary gland is having issues, it’s possible that other vital glands in the body will be affected. For this reason, complications involving the pituitary gland can affect anything from food metabolism to sexual function.

Which Hormones Does the Pituitary Gland Produce?

When it’s not overseeing other glands in the body, the pituitary gland does quite a bit of legwork on its own. The two lobes of the pituitary gland preside over different sets of hormones. Within the anterior lobe, the hormones produced are:

  • Growth hormone: Not only does growth hormone affect childhood growth, it also remains vital for issues of body composition and mass well into adulthood. Too little growth hormone is a problem, but too much can also be serious.
  • Adrenocorticotropin: Abbreviated ACTH, adrenocorticotropin triggers the creation of cortisol, or the “stress hormone,” which has an effect on blood sugar and blood pressure. It’s produced in large quantities when our bodies are stressed.
  • Prolactin: One of many hormones that helps regulate the reproductive system, prolactin produces milk for women who have just given birth. It’s also a key factor in sexual hormone levels and fertility for both men and women.
  • Luteinizing hormone: Another reproductive hormone which regulates testosterone (for men) and ovulation (for women).
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone: Works with luteinizing hormone. Regulates sperm production in men and triggers the ovaries to produce eggs and estrogen in women.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone: Thyroid hormones control a wide range of bodily functions, from the nervous system to metabolism and growth.

Within the posterior pituitary lobe, the hormones produced are:

  • Antidiuretic hormone: Abbreviated ADH and also known as vasopressin, antidiuretic hormone controls water levels in the body and limits the amount of water lost during urination.
  • Oxytocin: Prolactin from the anterior lobe regulates the production of milk for breastfeeding women, but oxytocin in the posterior lobe is what actually causes it to flow from the breasts. Oxytocin can also help stimulate the labor process during childbirth.

What Are Some Common Pituitary Gland Disorders?

Issues with the pituitary gland can cause complications all over the body. Some of the most common disorders affecting the master gland:

TUMORS

One of the most frequently seen pituitary disorders is the formation of tumors, which are almost never of the cancerous variety. There are two kinds of tumors:

  • Secretory tumors: tumors which overproduce a hormone made by the pituitary gland
  • Nonsecretory tumors: tumors which do not overproduce hormones

Both kinds of tumors can have serious effects. The two most common symptoms of pituitary tumors are inverses of each other: hypersecretion, where too much of a hormone is created, or hyposecretion, where too little is created. Hyposecretion generally occurs when a tumor grows large enough to interrupt the gland’s normal processes. It can also be caused by surgery or radiation on a tumor.

If pituitary tumors are left untreated, they can reach a size where they press against either the gland itself or other parts of the brain. This can result in serious health risks.

Treatments for pituitary tumors can vary. Certain approaches include:

  • Medications, which help reduce the tumor’s size or block its growth
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

HYPOPITUITARISM

Also known as pituitary insufficiency, this disorder describes any case where the pituitary gland is failing to produce enough hormones. It can be related to pituitary tumors, but often isn’t. Other causes include:

  • Previous radiation treatment
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Loss of blood.

Hypopituitarism isn’t particularly common, but it requires constant supervision to be managed correctly. Medications to help regulate lost hormones are the most common form of treatment, but further approaches such as hormone therapy, radiation therapy or even surgery are often necessary.

BRAIN TRAUMA

Due to its proximity to the brain, the pituitary gland can be affected by surgery or major head injuries. Symptoms and treatment options for this condition vary greatly and are decided on a case-by-case basis.

At Revere Health Endocrinology, our specialists are uniquely trained to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders related to the glands.

Sources:

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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