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Pituitary gland

2-minute read

The pituitary gland is an important part of the hormonal system. It makes many different hormones. Some of these hormones have direct effects on the body, and others control the actions of other glands that produce hormones.

What is the pituitary gland?

The pituitary gland sits in a pocket of the skull under the middle part of the brain. It is quite small — about the size of a pea.

The pituitary is controlled in two ways: by signals from the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and by sensing levels of other hormones in the body.

What hormones does the pituitary gland make?

The pituitary gland makes:

  • growth hormone, which regulates growth
  • thyroid stimulating hormone, which tells the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones
  • prolactin, which controls breast milk production
  • hormones involved in the reproductive cycle
  • a hormone that helps control the adrenal glands
  • oxytocin, which is involved in childbirth and breastfeeding
  • antidiuretic hormone, which helps control how much fluid is in your body
illustration of the endocrine glands

Medical conditions related to the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland can become disturbed and make too much or too little of a hormone. It can also be the site of a tumour, which can cause problems by squashing the surrounding brain tissue. Most tumours in the pituitary gland are benign and only cause problems when they change hormone levels or take up too much space.

Here are some of the more common pituitary conditions.

  • Hyperprolactinaemia (too much prolactin) — a woman with hyperprolactinaemia might notice her periods becoming lighter or stopping, might have difficulty getting pregnant and can also lead to lactating (producing breast milk).
  • Growth hormone deficiency — this can delay children’s growth and lead to a child being shorter in height than expected. In adults, growth hormone deficiency can cause fatigue, weak muscles, excess weight and can affect bone health.
  • Hypopituitarism — this is a deficiency of all the pituitary hormones and causes many different symptoms.

Rare pituitary conditions include:

  • gigantism — where a person grows very tall
  • acromegaly — where a person’s hands, feet and jaw enlarge
  • Cushing’s syndrome — where the body creates too many steroid hormones

More information

Learn more about the endocrine system and the different hormones released by the endocrine glands.

Last reviewed: November 2018

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Top results

Pituitary disorders - Lab Tests Online AU

Pituitary disorders are characterised by excess amounts of, or a deficiency in, one or more of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland and/or by the symptoms caused by the compression of the surrounding tissues when a pituitary tumour is present.

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Rare Cancers Australia - Directory - Pituitary Tumor

Rare Cancers Australia is a charity whose purpose is to improve the lives and health outcomes of Australians living with a rare or less common cancer.

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Pituitary tumour - Better Health Channel

Generally, pituitary tumours are benign and slow growing, and pituitary cancers are extremely rare.

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Hypopituitarism information | myVMC

Hypopituitarism refers to a group of disorders which interfere with synthesis and/or secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland.

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Acromegaly (pituitary hormonal disorder) information | myVMC

Acromegaly is a chronic metabolic disorder caused by excessive production of growth hormone by the pituitary gland. It causes enlargement of body tissues.

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Empty sella syndrome (pituitary gland disorder) | myVMC

Empty sella syndrome is a condition in which the pituitary gland cannot be seen on radiological imaging within a bony structure called the sella turica.

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Sheehan's syndrome (postpartum hypopituitarism) | myVMC

Sheehan's syndrome or postpartum hypopituitarism refers to reduced hormone secretion from the pituitary gland due to blood loss in childbirth.

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Prolactinoma information | myVMC

Prolactinoma is a noncancerous tumour of the pituitary gland. It causes overproduction of the hormone prolactin, leading to reduced sex hormone levels.

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Pituitary gland carcinoma (cancer) information | myVMC

Pituitary gland cancer or carcinoma of the pituitary gland is a rare cancer treated with radiotherapy and surgery. It runs in families.

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Central diabetes insipidus (vasopressin or ADH diabetes) | myVMC

Central diabetes insipidus involves inadequate production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which regulates water in the body, by the pituitary gland.

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