Did you know that many hormones are secreted by a pea-shaped gland called the pituitary gland? Besides, this gland also controls other glands’ functions. That’s why it is called the master gland. But if this gland doesn’t work properly, you might develop some health conditions.  

Learn more about them in this article.  

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland that is located at the end of the brain behind the nose under the hypothalamus. It is called the master gland because it not only releases hormones but also signals other glands to release their hormones in the bloodstream on the command of the brain.  

These hormones help to regulate many functions. The pituitary gland has two parts that are used to store and release these hormones. One is the anterior lobe and the other is the posterior lobe. But you can develop diseases when the pituitary doesn’t work properly. In these conditions, anterior and posterior lobes produce too much or too little hormones. It happens when the pituitary is underactive (hypopituitarism) or overactive (hyperpituitarism).  

You cannot prevent these conditions, but you can manage them through treatments.  

There are hormones produced by those two lobes of the pituitary gland that act on different glands and/or functions in the body:
 

Anterior pituitary gland 

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) 
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) 
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) 
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) 
  • Prolactin (PRL) 
  • Growth hormone (GH) 
  • Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) 

Posterior pituitary gland 

  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) 
  • Oxytocin 
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH): This hormone helps to stimulate the adrenal gland to produce cortisol (also known as corticotropin). Cortisol is released in stressful situations, helps to regulate glucose, and blood pressure, and reduces inflammation. It plays a significant role in the fight or flight response.  
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): This hormone helps to stimulate the thyroid gland to secrete thyroxine. This hormone is also called thyrotropin. Thyroxine regulates metabolism, energy homeostasis, growth, and nervous system activities.  
    • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): These hormones are collectively known as gonadotropins. LH hormone stimulates the ovary to release estrogen and progesterone in females and FSH hormone stimulates the testes to release testosterone. Both hormones play a key role in controlling the growth and maturity of sperm and egg cells. 
    • Prolactin (PRL): This hormone stimulates breasts to produce milk. This hormone is secreted more during pregnancy or childbirth, but this hormone is present all the time in women and men.  
    •  Growth hormone (GH): As the name implies, it helps in the growth of bones and muscles. It also helps in the repair of damaged tissues and cells.  
    • Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH): It is secreted by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and skin cells to protect the skin from UV rays, help in the development of pigmentation, and control your appetite.  
    • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH): This hormone is known as vasopressin. This hormone helps to control blood fluid and mineral levels and regulates water retention by the kidney.  
    • Oxytocin: This hormone stimulates uterine contractions during the time of pregnancy and childbirth. It also stimulates milk during breastfeeding.  

Diseases 

Several conditions affect the pituitary gland because it produces so many hormones. Most of them happen when the pituitary gland underperforms or overperforms. As a result, hormones produce too much or too little.  

When the pituitary is less active in its function it is called hypopituitarism. And when the pituitary is working more than normal it’s called hyperpituitarism. These conditions are also caused by disorders including: 

  • Pituitary gland tumors. 
  • Damage to the anterior pituitary, hypothalamus, or pituitary stalk through injury, infection, or weight loss.  
  • Genetic conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasias (MEN1). 

  

Hypopituitarism leads to: 

  • Secondary adrenal sufficiency: This condition happens due to a lack of production of (ACTH) Adrenocorticotropic hormone which results in an underactive adrenal gland. 
  • Growth hormone deficiency: This condition happens when the pituitary produces less growth hormone in the bloodstream. As a result, it changes body composition in adults and poor overall growth and height in children.  
  • Low sex hormones (Hypogonadism): This condition occurs when sex glands do not produce enough sex hormones in the bloodstream which affects sex drive and fertility.  
  • Hypothyroidism: This condition happens when the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone, as a result, the thyroid is underactive.  

  

Hyperpituitarism (increases the production of hormones) develops these conditions:  

  • Acromegaly: This is a rare condition where a benign tumor happens to the pituitary gland, and it increases the production of growth hormone. That causes body parts to grow abnormally. 
  • Cushing’s syndrome: This syndrome happens when the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol. Cortisol causes sudden weight gain on the face, abdomen, or back of the neck.  
  • Hyperthyroidism: This syndrome happens when the thyroid is overactive and produces too much of its hormone.  

  

Pituitary tumors 

This is a rare condition that happens when benign (noncancerous) cells start to grow on the pituitary gland. This puts pressure on the pituitary gland and might lead to hypopituitarism or hyperpituitarism. It is a rare condition that only happens to 77 out of 100,000 people (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum). Researchers think it happens to 20% of people at some point in their lives. But they rarely happen, and if they do happen, they don’t cause serious symptoms and that’s why they are left undiscovered.  

  

The pituitary gland is an essential part of the endocrine system. It controls the production and release of hormones to regulate other glands and their functions. Although we can’t avoid its disease, we can notice symptoms and get early treatment to cure them.  

  

Want to know more about hormonal treatments? 

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