The Pituitary gland
The pituitary gland is a small hormone gland, about the size of a pea, which controls the activity of a large number of other hormone glands in the body.
It is situated in a bony hollow in the middle of the head, behind the eyes and the top of the nose. It is connected to the underside of the brain, which controls it, by a small stalk. Amongst other things the pituitary is responsible for the control of the following:
- The Thyroid gland, which produces thyroid hormone and keeps all parts of the body ‘ticking over’ at the right rate.
- The Adrenal glands, which make the body's natural steroid hormones, essential for normal health and for coping with stresses and diseases.
- The Ovaries in a woman, or Testes in a man, which produce the normal female or male sex hormones and are also responsible for fertility.
- Growth hormone, responsible for growth in childhood
- Prolactin, responsible for the production of breast milk after pregnancy.
- Control of the amount of urine passed, in response to the amount of fluid taken in. If this hormone is not made properly then people produce a very large amount of urine.
Pituitary Diseases - Tumours
A common type of pituitary disease is the presence of a small benign tumour of the pituitary gland. A ‘tumour’ is a medical word which simply means abnormal swelling, and tumours of the pituitary gland are virtually never malignant or cancerous. Pituitary tumours can, however, cause illness if they interfere with the normal function of the pituitary gland, or enlarge to press on important nearby structures, or if they make too much of a particular pituitary hormone.
Symptoms of Enlargement of a Pituitary Tumour
Many pituitary tumours are small and cause no other problems, but if your pituitary has become large it may cause the following problems:
- Headache, severe and/or increasing
- Pain in the eye or face
- Double vision
- Problems with eyesight, due to pressure of the pituitary on the eye nerves. This usually causes loss of vision in the outer part of the eye.
For more information download the leaflet at the end of the page.
Written by Dr Trevor A. Howlett, MD FRCP Consultant Physician & Endocrinologist UHL