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Pituitary Gland

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The pituitary gland (also called the pituitary gland) is a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain below the hypothalamus. It is located in a small chamber below the brain known as the Turkish saddle. It is the part of the endocrine system that produces several important hormones. The pituitary gland also directs other glands in the endocrine system to release hormones.  

Sweat glands are organs that produce one or more substances, such as hormones, digestive juices, sweat, or tears. Hormones are chemicals that coordinate various functions in the body, sending messages through the blood to various organs, skin, muscles, and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when. The pituitary gland is divided into two main parts: the anterior pituitary (anterior lobe) and the posterior pituitary (posterior lobe). The pituitary gland connects to the hypothalamus through a trunk of blood vessels and nerves called the pituitary trunk (also called the pituitary gland).

Pituitary Gland


Hormones Secreted by Pituitary Gland

The anterior pituitary gland produces and secretes the following hormones

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH or corticotropin)- Stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol (the “stress hormone”), which has many functions, including regulating metabolism, maintaining blood pressure, regulating blood sugar (sugar) levels, and reducing inflammation.  
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)- FSH stimulates sperm production in people designated as male at birth. FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and plays a role in egg development in people designated as female at birth. This is the so-called gonadotropin.  
  • Growth Hormone (GH)- In children, growth hormone stimulates growth. In adults, growth hormone maintains healthy muscles and bones and affects fat distribution. GH also affects your metabolism (how your body converts the food you eat into energy).  
  • Luteinizing Hormone (LH)- LH stimulates ovulation in women at birth and the production of testosterone in men. LH is also known as gonadotropin because of its role in regulating the function of the ovaries and testes known as the gonads.  
  • Prolactin- Prolactin stimulates the production of breast milk  (lactation) after childbirth. May affect fertility and sexual function in adults.  
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)- TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, energy levels, and the nervous system.  

The posterior pituitary stores and releases the following hormones, that are produced by the hypothalamus

  • Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH or Vasopressin): This hormone regulates water balance and sodium levels in the body.
  • Oxytocin: The hypothalamus produces oxytocin, and the pituitary stores and releases it. In people designated as female at birth, oxytocin sends a signal to the uterus to contract, which helps the labor process during labor. It also triggers the flow of breast milk and affects the bond between parent and child. In people designated as male by birth, oxytocin plays an important role in sperm movement.


The main function of the pituitary gland is to produce and release several hormones that help perform important bodily functions, including

  • Growth
  • Metabolism (how your body converts and manages the energy from the food you eat)
  • Reproduction
  • Response to stress or trauma
  • Lactation
  • Water-sodium (salt) balance
  • Birth and childbirth

The thermostat constantly checks the temperature inside the house to keep you comfortable. Signals the heating and cooling system to raise or lower the temperature by a certain temperature to maintain a constant air temperature.  The pituitary gland regulates bodily functions in much the same way. The pituitary gland sends signals through hormones to organs and glands to tell which functions are needed and when. The right setup for your body depends on many factors, including age and gender.

Interaction between Hypothalamus and Pituitary Gland 

The pituitary gland and hypothalamus together form the hypothalamus-pituitary complex, which serves as the brain’s central command center for controlling important bodily functions.   

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that is responsible for some basic operations of the body. It sends messages to the autonomic nervous system that controls things like blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. The hypothalamus also tells the pituitary gland to make and release hormones that affect other parts of the body.   

The pituitary gland is connected to the hypothalamus through blood vessels and nerve trunks (pituitary trunk). Through this stem, the hypothalamus communicates with the anterior pituitary through hormones and with the posterior pituitary through nerve impulses. The hypothalamus also produces oxytocin and antidiuretic hormones and tells the posterior pituitary when to store and release these hormones. The hypothalamus produces the following hormones to interact with and stimulate the pituitary gland:   

  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
  • Dopamine
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
  • Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH)
  • Somatostatin
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Releasing Hormone (TRH)

As the pituitary gland and hypothalamus interact so closely with each other, damage in one can affect hormonal function in another.

Conditions and Disorders Related to Pituitary Gland

Several conditions can affect or affect the functioning of the pituitary gland. There are four main categories of problems with the pituitary gland:

Pituitary Adenomas 

A pituitary adenoma is a benign (noncancerous) growth of the pituitary gland. It accounts for 10 to 15% of all tumors originating in the skull.   

Pituitary adenomas usually grow slowly, but when they grow too large, they can put pressure on surrounding structures and cause symptoms. It can also compress the optic nerve, causing visual impairment (loss of peripheral vision). Rarely, large pituitary adenomas may bleed.   

Some pituitary adenomas secrete excess pituitary hormones. It is called a functional (secretory) adenoma. Others do not secrete any hormones. They are called non-functional adenomas.   

There are several types of pituitary adenomas that function according to the hormones they secrete. The most common functional adenoma is a prolactinoma that secretes an excess of prolactin. Prolactinoma is usually treated with drugs.   

Tumors of the pituitary gland that grow too large or secrete hormones usually require treatment, including surgery.


Hypopituitarism is a condition in which one, several, or all of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland are insufficient. Most cases of hypopituitarism are caused by a deficiency of one hormone. A deficiency of two or more pituitary hormones is called panhypopituitarism. This usually occurs after pituitary surgery or brain radiation therapy. Hypopituitarism is most commonly caused by damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.   

Certain conditions associated with growth hormone deficiency include:   

  • Growth Hormone Deficiency: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone (GH). In children, it causes growth and developmental delays and delayed puberty. It causes metabolic problems in adults.                                                                                                                      
  • Central Diabetes Insipidus: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH or vasopressin). This causes the body to produce too much urine (urine) and cannot retain enough water.                                                                                                                                             
  • Central Hypogonadism: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). It causes problems with sexual function, development, and fertility.                                                                                                                                                  
  • Central Adrenal Insufficiency: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough ACTH. As a result, the body is unable to secrete cortisol.
  • Central Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).


Hyperpituitarism occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much of one or more hormones. It is often caused by a functional/secretory pituitary adenoma (a noncancerous tumor).   Certain conditions associated with excess  pituitary hormones include:   

  • Acromegaly: This condition occurs in adulthood when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. This causes certain parts of the body, such as arms, legs, and/or organs, to enlarge and cause metabolic problems.
  • Anorexia: This condition occurs in childhood or adolescence when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. This causes rapid growth and very high growth.   
  • Cushing’s Disease: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), causing the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. This can lead to rapid weight gain and high blood sugar in certain parts of the body, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.                                  
  • Hyperprolactinemia: This condition occurs when the pituitary gland secretes too much prolactin. This causes infertility and a milky discharge (milk discharge) from the nipples.         

Empty Sella Syndrome 

Empty Sella syndrome (ESS) is a rare condition in which the pituitary gland flattens or contracts due to problems with the Sella turcica, a bone structure at the base of the brain that surrounds and protects the pituitary gland. The Turkish saddle is a saddle section. Means “Place of Turkey” in Latin. Empty Turkish Saddle – X-ray Diagnosis. Often this does not lead to true disease and is often found incidentally on imaging. In some cases, ESA can cause certain symptoms, including hormonal imbalances, frequent headaches, and changes in vision. However, if your pituitary hormone levels are within the normal range, this is nothing to worry about.


Large pituitary adenomas (giant adenomas), benign (noncancerous) tumors of the pituitary gland, can put pressure on or damage surrounding tissue. This can cause symptoms such as:   

  • Vision problems (loss of peripheral vision)
  • Headache
  • Hormonal imbalance due to excess or deficiency of pituitary hormones

An imbalance of pituitary hormones can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on which hormone is affected, including:

  • Male and female infertility
  • Irregular Period
  • Depression and/or anxiety

It is important to contact your healthcare provider whenever you develop new persistent symptoms. They may order a few simple blood tests to determine if your symptoms are due to hormonal problems or something else.

Tips For Pituitary Gland Health

Head injuries and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can damage the pituitary gland, making it secrete too little or too much hormone. To prevent head and brain damage, you can:   

  • Fasten your seat belt whenever you drive or drive a vehicle.  
  • Practice safe driving. 
  • Wear a helmet when participating in certain activities, such as cycling, motorcycling, or contact sports. 
  • Take steps to prevent falls, especially if the risk is greater. 

This may include strength and balance exercises, removing obstacles and tripping hazards in the home, using assisted walking, and having clear vision. If you have children, keep them safe in the living room and play area.

FAQs on Pituitary Gland

Question 1: Which organ is most affected by the pituitary hormone? 


The gland is attached to the part of the brain that controls activity (hypothalamus). The anterior pituitary gland is connected to the brain by short blood vessels. The posterior pituitary gland is part of the brain and releases hormones directly into the bloodstream on command from the brain.

Question 2: Is it possible to activate the pituitary gland?  


There is an overactive pituitary gland called an overactive pituitary gland. Noncancerous (benign) tumors often cause this condition by causing the gland to produce too much or too little of the hormones that control growth, reproduction, and metabolism.

Question 3: What causes pituitary damage?  


Sudden blood loss can damage your pituitary gland (called gangrene). This can happen with Sheehan syndrome (severe blood loss after childbirth), sickle cell disease, and diabetes. Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a type of stroke often caused by head trauma, can also cause pituitary tumors.

Question 4: What is the role of the pituitary gland during pregnancy?  


The pituitary gland is responsible for the secretion of oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract during childbirth. These glands also secrete prolactin, which stimulates milk production.

Question 5: How much does the pituitary gland increase during pregnancy?  


The pituitary gland enlarges during pregnancy, but should not exceed 10 mm for most periods. Sizes up to 12mm may be accepted immediately after delivery.

Question 6: How do pituitary tumors develop?  


In children and adolescents, somatotroph blastoma causes enlargement (also known as pediatric astrocytoma and pituitary enlargement). The high amount of growth hormone in the body makes them taller.

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Last Updated : 20 Oct, 2022
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