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What is hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism, also called an underactive pituitary gland, is a condition that affects the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland – usually resulting in a partial or complete loss of functioning of that lobe. The resulting symptoms depend on which hormones are no longer being produced by the gland. Because the pituitary gland affects the other endocrine organs, effects of hypopituitarism may be gradual or sudden and dramatic.

Causes of hypopituitarism:

Causes of hypopituitarism can directly affect the pituitary gland or indirectly through the hypothalamus, which in turn affects the pituitary gland.

Causes of primary hypopituitarism (directly affecting pituitary gland):
  • pituitary tumors
  • inadequate blood supply to pituitary gland
  • infections and/or inflammatory diseases
  • sarcoidosis – a rare inflammation of the lymph nodes and other tissues throughout the body
  • amyloidosis – a rare disease which causes the buildup of amyloid, a protein and starch, in tissues and organs
  • radiation therapy
  • surgical removal of pituitary tissue
  • autoimmune diseases
  • Causes of secondary hypopituitarism (affecting the hypothalamus):
  • tumors of the hypothalamus
  • inflammatory disease
  • head injuries
  • surgical damage to the pituitary and/or blood vessels or nerves leading to it
  • Treatment for hypopituitarism:

    Treatment of hypopituitarism depends on its cause. The goal of treatment is to restore the pituitary gland to normal function, producing normal levels of hormones. Specific treatment for hypopituitarism will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference
  • Treatment may include replacement hormone therapy, surgical tumor removal, and/or radiation therapy.