Pituitary Tumors: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments You Need to Know About
The pituitary is an endocrine gland found in the skull just below your brain and above the nasal passages; it is within close proximity of the optic nerves which pass right by it. The pituitary plays an important role in your brains’ ability to control hormones because the hormones it creates help to control most of the other hormones created by your endocrine system. The hormones it helps control includes your thyroid, sex glands, and adrenal glands.
Up to 20% of all people actually have pituitary tumors but many do not cause any symptoms. However, those that experience a tumorous growth can have their pituitary damaged, which reduces its ability to produce the essential hormones and lead to a variety of troubles for the body.
Unfortunately, we do not know the causes for pituitary tumors. There are some theories that place a focus around DNA, genetics, and gene mutations as a potential cause of the problem but so far scientists haven’t been able to identify a key factor as to why they are so prevalent (and why they become dangerous).
A pituitary tumor generally becomes problematic due either in part because of endocrinologic disturbance or from the pressure it applies to the surrounding area.
Common symptoms of those affected may include (but not limited to):
- Nausea and vomiting
- Double vision (and other visual changes)
- Nasal drainage
- Heart Problems
- Joint pain
These symptoms can happen rather suddenly. The tumor may also trigger different symptoms based on its hormonal effects on other parts of the endocrine system.
- Cushing syndrome (muscle weakness, stretch marks, etc) due to your adrenal glands producing too much cortisol.
- Acromegaly (excess sweating, misaligned teeth, enlarged hands & feet, etc) which is an effect on the growth hormones.
- Prolactinoma (common to women) which can create irregular or absent menstrual periods or nipple discharge.
The long-term effects of a pituitary tumor could lead to vision loss, permanent hormone deficiency, and diabetes insipidus. A sever effect, though rare, includes sudden bleeding which requires immediate emergency treatment.
The current process for detecting and diagnosing pituitary tumors are as follows:
- Blood and urine tests to help determine whether you are producing (or not producing enough0 hormones.
- Brain scans and imaging through the use of a CT scan which doctor’s use to judge the location and size of the tumor.
- A vision test to see if it has been impaired on any part.
Treatment for a pituitary tumor is generally approached in four different manners depending on severity:
- Surgery – Usually done through the nasal passage or done by creating an incision in the scale to gain access to the affected area.
- Radiation – In an attempt to shrink the tumor and generally used in combination to the nasal surgery procedure.
- Medications – To regulate and block hormone production to balance what the tumor has done through its erratic hormone production.
- Support – Where an individual may find comfort from others experiencing the same issues and symptoms (or not) to remain calm and in high spirits.
The 20% statistic is very real and may have you startled and concerned. The best approach after having learned this information is simple: seek professional help when applicable. Early detection and diagnosis can greatly improve your chances to eliminate symptoms created by a pituitary tumor. Make it your goal to ensure you are improving your quality of life by taking action and looking after your health.