Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Pituitary disorders - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

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.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Pituitary tumour - Better Health Channel

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

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for FSH

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Luteinising hormone (LH) - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for LH

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Thyroid gland disorders - myDr.com.au

The average person knows little about the detrimental affects of thyroid disorders upon health and this can be very discouraging.

Read more on myDr website

Growth hormone - Better Health Channel

Some athletes and bodybuilders wrongly believe that taking synthetic growth hormone will help build up their muscles.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

The thyroid gland

Information on the thyroid gland and its function in regulating your bodys metabolism.

Read more on WA Health website

Endocrine Cancer | Cancer Council Victoria

The endocrine system is a network of hormone-producing glands such as the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland, the pancreas, the parathyroid glands and the adrenal glands.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Thyroid gland and thyroid hormones - myDr.com.au

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones - the main ones being T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo