In this Article

The pituitary [pi-TOO-ih-ter-ee] gland is a small organ about the size of a pea at the base of your brain. This gland is a “control center” for other glands in the body. When it is injured or affected by a pituitary tumor, this gland can interfere with hormone levels and cause problems with other glands.


Specific symptoms will depend on the cause of the disorder. If the disorder is caused be a tumor, symptoms will depend on the type of tumor, how big the tumor is, and which area of the gland is affected.

Some of the more common symptoms of pituitary disorders include:

  • Headaches
  • Visions problems, especially peripheral vision issues
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Irregular periods
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss
  • Excessive urination (peeing)

Pituitary disorders can lead to other endocrine disorders which may cause other symptoms. The endocrine system refers to the glands of the body that release hormones.

When to See a Doctor

Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of a pituitary disorder or tumor.

If you have a pituitary disorder and your symptoms worsen over time, you should seek immediate follow-up care.


While some pituitary disorders can be caused by injury, most are the result of a pituitary tumor. These tumors, which are often benign, are not life threatening and respond well to treatment. There are several different categories of pituitary disorders defined by which area of the gland is affected by the tumor:

  • Nonfunctional adenomas [ad-n-oh-muh]. The most common of these pituitary tumors can cause headaches and problems with vision.
  • Prolactin [proh-lak-tin] -producing tumors. Too much prolactin can cause menstruation problems in women and erectile dysfunction in men.
  • ACTH-producing tumors. This steroid affects the adrenaline gland and metabolism. Symptoms include a weak immune system, high blood pressure, and Cushing’s disease.
  • Growth hormone-producing tumors. If this area of the pituitary gland is affected, it can result in gigantism in children. Adults may experience joint pain, sleep apnea, a change in facial appearance, and a deepening voice.

While there are some other conditions increase the risk of pituitary disorder, these tumors often run in families and are considered genetic.

Diagnosis and Tests

Doctors will often order blood or urine tests to determine pituitary function. This may be followed by imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, to identify potential tumors. A biopsy may also be recommended to determine if the tumor is caused by cancer.


The treatment your doctor recommends will depend upon age, overall health, medical history, type of pituitary disorder, and your preference. Treatment may include the following:

  • Medicine. Medicine may be prescribed to control hormone levels. For instance, if your pituitary gland isn’t making enough of a hormone, your doctor might prescribe a replacement hormone to make your levels right.
  • Surgery. For small tumors, surgery may be used to remove the growth from your pituitary gland.

Pituitary disorders caused by tumors that are determined to be cancerous may require additional treatments like radiation to target the cancer cells and surrounding tissue. Most pituitary tumors are benign, or noncancerous.


There are no specific ways to prevent pituitary disorders or tumors.

If you have a family history of pituitary disorders, increased screening and testing is recommended to catch tumors early and prevent complications.

What are Pituitary Disorders?

The pituitary [pi-TOO-ih-ter-ee] gland is a small organ about the size of a pea at the base of your brain. This gland is a “control center” for other glands in the body, and releases special chemicals, called hormones, that make these other glands work.

A pituitary disorder is when the pituitary gland is not functioning well, either causing too much or too little of a hormone to be released and interfering with the function of other glands in the body.

Pituitary disorders can be caused by injury, but most often are from a pituitary tumor. Pituitary tumors are difficult to identify because the symptoms involve the function of other glands and might look like other problems or disorders.

There are three main types of disorders caused by pituitary tumors:

  • Hypersecretion [hi-per-seh-kree-shun]. Too much hormone is being produced.
  • Hyposecretion [hi-poh-seh-kree-shun]. Too little hormone is being produced, usually as the result of a larger tumor.
  • Tumor mass effects. As the growth gets bigger, it may press on other areas of the brain, causing headaches and vision problems.

Pituitary tumors, which are most often the cause of pituitary disorders, are usually benign [bih-nahyn], which means they don’t spread to other parts of the body.