What are the symptoms of a tumor on your pituitary gland?

What are the symptoms of a tumor on your pituitary gland?

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with a pituitary gland tumor may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with a pituitary gland tumor do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not a pituitary gland tumor.

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained changes in menstrual cycles
  • Erectile dysfunction, which is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection and is caused by hormone changes
  • Infertility, which is the inability to have children
  • Unexpected breast growth or production of breast milk
  • Cushing’s syndrome, a combination of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and easy bruising that is caused by overproduction of the adrenocorticotrophic hormone (see below)
  • Acromegaly, the enlargement of the arms or legs and thickening of the skull and jaw caused by too much growth hormone

A pituitary tumor causes symptoms in 3 different ways, which are discussed below.

By producing too much of 1 or more hormones:

  • Growth hormone. The symptoms depend on a patient’s age. In children, before the bone plates have closed, increased growth can cause gigantism, which is excessive body size and height. In adults, increased growth hormone causes acromegaly, a syndrome that includes excessive growth of soft tissues and bones, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, increased snoring, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pain, including headaches.
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Too much TSH causes increased production of thyroid hormone, called hyperthyroidism. This can lead to nervousness and irritability, fast heart rate and high blood pressure, heart disease, increased sweating, thin skin, and weight loss.
  • Prolactin. Too much prolactin, a hormone that stimulates lactation and the secretion of progesterone, causes unexpected secretion of breast milk. It can also cause osteoporosis, which is weakening of the bones; loss of sex drive; infertility; irregular menstrual cycles; and the inability to have an erection.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Too much of this hormone causes weight gain, particularly in the body’s torso or trunk. It can also cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar, brittle bones, emotional changes, stretch marks on the skin, and easy bruising.
  • Gonadotropins. Usually, the gonadotropins follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone are not high enough to cause symptoms but can, in rare cases, cause infertility and irregular menstrual cycles. Some men may have higher testosterone levels.

By pressing on the pituitary gland, causing it to make too little of 1 or more hormones:

  • Growth hormone. Not enough growth hormone causes late growth in children, poor muscle strength, irritability, weakening of bone strength, and an overall unwell feeling. Adults have fatigue, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and strength, difficulty exercising, brain fog, and are at a higher risk for osteoporosis and cardiovascular disorders.
  • TSH. Low TSH causes fatigue, low energy, sensitivity to cold temperatures, constipation, and weight gain.
  • Prolactin. Too little prolactin causes an inability to breastfeed.
  • ACTH. Too little of this hormone causes fatigue and low energy, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and upset stomach.
  • Gonadotropins. Low levels of gonadotropins cause infertility, decrease in sex drive, an inability to have an erection, and irregular menstrual cycles.

By pressing on the optic nerves or, less commonly, the nerves controlling eye movements, and causing either loss of part or all of a person’s sight, or double vision.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you have been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If a pituitary gland tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called “palliative care” or “supportive care.” It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

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