Pituitary – Facts!

What is Pituitary?

The pituitary is a Master gland which is about the size of a pea and is situated in the base of the brain. It is called the “Master gland” as it controls the functions of the other endocrine glands.

It has got two lobes:

  1. Anterior lobe
  2. Posterior lobe

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What is its’ function?

Each lobe of the pituitary gland secretes hormones, which in turn control the other endocrine glands in the human body

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Anterior lobe

  • Growth hormone
  • Prolactin – to stimulate milk production in women after giving birth
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) – to stimulate the adrenal glands
  • TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) – to stimulate the thyroid gland
  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) – to stimulate the ovaries and testes
  • LH (luteinizing hormone) – to stimulate the ovaries or testes

Posterior lobe

  • ADH (antidiuretic hormone) – to increase absorption of water into the blood by the kidneys
  • Oxytocin – to contract the uterus during childbirth and stimulate milk production

What way it can go wrong?

There can be either an over functioning or under functioning of the entire pituitary gland or of one of its lobes or hormone secreting cells.

How would I know my Pituitary needs checking?

Symptoms vary depending on whether there is an over production or under production of the gland.

Growth hormone:

Over production: Can lead to Gigantism in children & Acromegaly in adults. There is a coarsening of the facial features, with large hands & legs, increased sweating and thickening of the skin. Underproduction: In children this leads to stunted growth and dwarfism. In adults Growth Hormone deficiency can cause lot of metabolic derangements, over the last few years we have started using Growth Hormone in adults with GH deficiency.

Prolactin:

Over production: Excess prolactin causes irregular menstrual cycles, breast discharge; infertility in women and in men can cause impotence and infertility. Under production: This rare deficiency can cause decreased milk production after child birth.

TSH:

Over production: Increased production of TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more of its hormones causing excess sweating, weight loss despite increased appetite, increased frequency of defaecation, anxiety, restlessness & tremors. Under production: Decreased production of thyroid hormones lead to excess weight gain, lethargy, dry skin, constipation, menstrual irregularities.

ACTH:

Over production: Increased production of steroid hormones lead to excess weight gain, easy bruisability of skin, increased blood pressure & blood sugar, menstrual irregularities. Under production: Decreased production of steroid hormones can cause fatigability, low blood pressure, low sugar & excessive weakness.

LH & FSH:

Under production: Menstrual irregularities, vaginal dryness loss of libido, infertility in women & impotence, loss of secondary sexual characteristics & infertility in men.

This article is prepared along with Dr Menaka