Hypopituitarism occurs when the pituitary gland isn’t as active as it should be, leading to lessened hormone production. Hypopituitarism, also known as pituitary insufficiency, is a rare condition that occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce certain hormones. The pituitary gland is considered to be the “master gland” in the body that alerts other glands when it’s time to release hormones. Specifically, it directs the thyroid gland (which controls metabolism, growth and development) and the adrenal glands (which regulate the immune system, stress response and blood pressure) to produce hormones. When the pituitary gland isn’t as active as it should be, it can greatly affect many bodily functions. 

Causes of Hypopituitarism  

Hypopituitarism can be caused by: 

  • Benign (noncancerous) tumors of the pituitary gland 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Head injuries 
  • Significant blood loss during childbirth 
  • Inflammation of the pituitary gland 
  • Pituitary surgery 
  • Infections such as meningitis, tuberculosis or syphilis 
  • Certain congenital conditions 
  • Sarcoidosis (inflammation of lymph nodes and tissues) 
  • Amyloidosis (buildup of protein and starch in tissues and organs) 

Symptoms of Hypopituitarism 

The symptoms of hypopituitarism can vary greatly from person to person, depending on which pituitary hormones are affected: 

Growth Hormone Deficiency 

  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Changes to body fat composition 

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) or Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Deficiency 

In women, symptoms can include: 

  • Decreased egg and estrogen production 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Irregular periods 
  • An inability to produce breastmilk  

In men, symptoms can include: 

  • Decreased sperm and testosterone production 
  • Mood changes 
  • Lessened body and facial hair 
  • Erectile dysfunction 

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Deficiency 

  • Fatigue 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dry skin 
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures 

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) Deficiency 

  • Fatigue 
  • Low blood pressure that sometimes results in fainting 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Frequent infections 

Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) Deficiency

  • Electrolyte imbalances 
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Frequent urination 

Prolactin Deficiency

  • Issues producing breastmilk (in women) 

Diagnosing Hypopituitarism  

Hypopituitarism is most commonly diagnosed by checking your hormone levels using blood tests. Imaging scans may be recommended to rule out a pituitary tumor.  

Treatment of Hypopituitarism 

In most cases, hormone replacement therapy is the typical course of action for this condition, as it will help to balance out your hormone levels to improve your symptoms. If a pituitary tumor is causing your symptoms, however, other treatments may be recommended, such as: 

  • Transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor 
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor