By | November 8, 2010

The pituitary gland is one of the most important and influential endocrine glands in the entire body. For the reason that it secretes a number of all important hormones, like growth hormone (HGH) for example, it is often called the master gland.

Any disorder affecting the pituitary gland is bound to affect the normal and proper growth of the body, and lead to accelerated aging or slow development. One of the most insidious disorders affecting the pituitary is hypopituitarism.

Common symptoms of hypopituitarism

Hypopituitarism often leads to underproduction or deficiency of HGH plus many of the other pituitary hormones; the symptoms are often subtle and therefore, overlooked. But one of its hallmark symptoms is slow/poor growth during the childhood phase and poor, dry, fragile skin and hair, as well as poor muscle mass and body stature/build. Severe cases of hypopituitarism result in dwarfism.

A deficiency in growth hormone (no matter if it’s slight or serious) often leads to reduced metabolism and increased tendency for obesity (especially around the waist), which is why middle aged people (who have lower growth hormone levels) often develop a spare tire. Concentration is also harder, coupled with poor memory, and the person feels tired often, especially after undertaking any activity. Sleep is never really satisfying or deep enough. Cardiovascular risk is heightened too, due to a weaker heart, which is common in most hypopituitarism cases.

Besides HGH, other hormones being underproduced include ACTH, FSH, and TSH. Many of the symptoms of deficiencies in these hormones also mimic HGH deficiency symptoms. Both ACTH and TSH activate the hormones produced by the adrenal and thyroid glands (like cortisone and thyroid hormone); so low levels of these hormones closely mimic the deficiency symptoms of their associated hormones, making diagnosis difficult.

What causes hypopituitarism?

From what I see, hypopituitarism can be caused by many things and takes on many forms that it’s really hard to pin them down. Tumors are often mentioned as a cause, but sometimes it could just be down to inherited congenital defects from birth. Other causes like trauma or infection may also negatively affect the pituitary gland and impede it from functioning efficiently.

If you suspect you have an underfunctioning pituitary gland, it is best to go see a competent doctor about it, and get some tests done. But note that the battery of tests designed to decipher whether hypopituitarism really exists in the first place or its causes, are often expensive and tedious to undergo for most people.

This is why I suspect, there may be many more people with mild hypopituitarism walking about out there than we realize, who may not suspect anything overtly wrong with themselves and continue living with the condition, since most people mistakenly associate hypopituitarism with something serious like dwarfism. A sluggish/underperforming pituitary may not be life threatening, but it certainly deducts from the quality of life for the person affected by it.

If you suspect your pituitary needs help, what can you do for it, apart from consulting a competent endocrine specialist? Although the answer may seem too simple, you can certainly help its function by living healthy, eating healthy, getting enough rest, and minimizing stress: Those are the basic health rules that everyone should live by at all times (although few truly live this ideal).