Pituitary care to help you live your best life
Your pituitary gland produces chemicals that regulate important bodily functions. We’re here to help keep things balanced, so you can feel your best.
What is the pituitary gland?
The pituitary is a small, pea-shaped gland that sits behind your nose. Often called the master gland, it’s responsible for secreting chemicals that control many different bodily functions. Connected to the hypothalamus gland, the pituitary is divided into two parts: the anterior (front) lobe and the posterior (rear) lobe, each releasing hormones that control different functions.
The anterior lobe helps regulate:
- Thyroid function
- Adrenal function
- Sperm and egg cell production
- Breast milk production
- Physical growth and development
- Endorphin production
The posterior lobe regulates:
- Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone”
- Vasopressin, which is responsible for maintaining normal sodium levels and controlling your body’s water balance
What are some common pituitary conditions?
When your pituitary gland doesn’t produce the right amount of hormones (either too much or too little), you can develop a pituitary condition. There are several types of pituitary conditions, including:
- Acromegaly: This hormone-based condition occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. It can lead to enlarged hands and feet, a deeper voice and changes to the shape of your face.
- Cushing disease: Also known as Cushing syndrome, this condition occurs when your body produces too much of the hormone cortisol or it’s exposed to prolonged high levels of cortisol, either from taking oral corticosteroids or from other causes, like Addison’s disease. Cushing disease can cause symptoms including a round face, weight gain around the midsection and a fatty hump between the shoulder blades.
- Diabetes insipidus: This rare disorder leads to an imbalance of fluids in the body. Symptoms can include excessive thirst and excessive urine output. This condition may also cause an electrolyte imbalance.
- Pituitary tumor: A benign or malignant tumor can press on or form within the pituitary gland. A pituitary tumor can lead to a variety of symptoms including fatigue, low blood pressure, irregular menstrual periods, constipation or weight gain.
- Prolactinoma: This condition occurs when a non-cancerous tumor causes the pituitary to produce too much of the hormone prolactin. Women with this condition may experience irregular menstrual periods, headaches, lactation when not pregnant or nursing, or painful sexual intercourse. Men may experience erectile dysfunction, loss of interest in sexual intercourse or decreased body hair.
Risk factors for pituitary conditions
There are certain behaviors, genetics and risk factors that can increase your chances of developing a pituitary condition. These include:
- Diabetes: Those with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop pituitary disorders.
- Family history: If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with a pituitary condition, you have a greater risk of developing one.
- Being female: Women who have gone through menopause are more likely to develop a pituitary condition.
- Other risk factors: Other risk factors that can increase the risk of developing a pituitary condition include:
- Infections such as meningitis or tuberculosis
- Traumatic brain injury or stroke
How are pituitary conditions diagnosed?
Our endocrinology specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating all kinds of pituitary conditions.
Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may perform to test for a pituitary condition include:
- Blood tests: Your doctor may start by ordering bloodwork to evaluate the levels of hormones in your blood, including your cortisol levels.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound takes an image of your pituitary gland using sound waves. Your healthcare provider will review these images to look for any concerning issues.
- Imaging tests: Diagnostic imaging tests, such as MRIs, CT scans and PET scans, are used to produce detailed pictures of your pituitary gland.
Treating pituitary conditions
Depending on the type and severity of your condition, one or more of the following treatments may be recommended.
You can make several lifestyle changes that your doctor may suggest to help manage your symptoms. These may include:
- Increasing sleep
- Change in diet
- Reducing stress
- Emotional support
Your doctor may recommend prescription medications to help manage your symptoms and treat your pituitary condition. This may include medications to regulate the number of hormones your pituitary gland produces.
The latest surgical techniques, including minimally invasive surgery, might be right for treating pituitary conditions to offer you the best outcomes and path for healing. You can rest assured that your team of specialized surgeons have the skill and level of training they need to perform all types of pituitary surgeries.
If you have a pituitary tumor, radiation therapy can be used to control or destroy harmful cancer cells, with tools to treat each unique pituitary cancer.
Our radiation oncology team offers conventional radiotherapy treatments that include:
- External beam radiation, which uses special technology to send X-ray radiation (photons) to the tumor from outside the body
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy), which targets the tumor using safe levels of radiation inside the body through radioactive tubes or radioactive seeds
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which uses a 3D image of the tumor to deliver high-precision radiotherapy that fits its exact outline
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which is used to localize the radiation beam daily and treat cancers in areas of the body that move during and between treatments. This includes cone beam CT scans to accurately view the tumor and target it during treatment.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which uses precise conformal beams of radiation to focus high doses of radiation to just the tumor, with very little damage to surrounding healthy tissues
Pituitary care at Geisinger
Our endocrinology team is here to provide you with compassionate care and the most advanced available. We offer:
- The knowledge you need – Your care team is powered by endocrinologists, surgeons, doctors and specialists with years of training and experience. Their expertise has been honed by treating many people with parathyroid issues every year. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your needs.
- Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care, backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Comprehensive specialty care – Our endocrine specialists are dedicated to offering innovative treatment options and personalized care in convenient locations, so you don’t have to travel far. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized care plan based on your individual needs.
- Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode® are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, some may receive information about their own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.