Glands in the body diagram

Pituitary Gland Overview

The pituitary gland is a part of your endocrine system. Its main function is to secrete hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones can affect other organs and glands, especially your:

The pituitary gland is sometimes called the master gland because it’s involved in so many processes.

The pituitary gland is small and oval-shaped. It’s located behind your nose, near the underside of your brain. It’s attached to the hypothalamus by a stalklike structure.

The hypothalamus is a small area of your brain. It’s very important in controlling the balance of your bodily functions. It controls the release of hormones from the pituitary gland.

The pituitary gland can be divided into two different parts: the anterior and posterior lobes.

Anterior lobe

The anterior lobe of your pituitary gland is made up of several different types of cells that produce and release different types of hormones, including:

  • Growth hormone.Growth hormone regulates growth and physical development. It can stimulate growth in almost all of your tissues. Its primary targets are bones and muscles.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone.This hormone activates your thyroid to release thyroid hormones. Your thyroid gland and the hormones it produces are crucial for metabolism.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone.This hormone stimulates your adrenal glands to produce cortisol and other hormones.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone.Follicle-stimulating hormone is involved with estrogen secretion and the growth of egg cells in women. It’s also important for sperm cell production in men.
  • Luteinizing hormone.Luteinizing hormone is involved in the production of estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
  • Prolactin.Prolactin helps women who are breastfeeding produce milk.
  • Endorphins.Endorphins have pain-relieving properties and are thought to be connected to the “pleasure centers” of the brain.
  • Enkephalins. Enkephalins are closely related to endorphins and have similar pain-relieving effects.
  • Beta-melanocyte-stimulating hormone. This hormone helps to stimulate increased pigmentation of your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Posterior lobe

The posterior lobe of the pituitary gland also secretes hormones. These hormones are usually produced in your hypothalamus and stored in the posterior lobe until they’re released.

Hormones stored in the posterior lobe include:

  • Vasopressin. This is also called antidiuretic hormone. It helps your body conserve water and prevent dehydration.
  • Oxytocin. This hormone stimulates the release of breast milk. It also stimulates contractions of the uterus during labor.

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