Pituitary problems are conditions that are caused by either too much or too little of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland located in the brain. In most cases, the pituitary problems are caused by a tumor that is pressing the surrounding tissues, causing a variety of symptoms to develop.
The most common pituitary problem is hypopituitarism. Hypopituitarism is considered to be a rather rare disorder, affecting less than 200,000 patients in the United States alone. Globally, there are around 45 cases of hypopituitarism per 100,000 people. Hypopituitarism causes the pituitary gland to fail to produce the needed amounts of one or more of its hormones. In most cases, it is a pituitary tumor that is causing hypopituitarism. The symptoms depend on which hormone is not being produced in the required amounts. If it is the growth hormone, it can cause permanent short stature in children, and if it is the follicle-stimulating or luteinizing hormone, it can cause issues related to the menstrual cycle, infertility, or sexual function issues.
Other common pituitary issues include pituitary tumors and hyperprolactinemia, among many others. About 10,000 new cases of pituitary tumors are diagnosed each year in the United States. Almost all of them are benign. Some pituitary tumors do not cause any symptoms of all, while others can interfere with the function of the hormones of the pituitary gland, increasing or reducing their production, thus causing a variety of symptoms. Their cause remains unknown. Most pituitary tumors do not require any treatment whatsoever. There are some that are pressing on the optic nerve or ones that are causing an overproduction of certain hormones, which leads to their surgical removal. Hyperprolactinemia is an example of a condition being caused by a pituitary tumor stimulating an overproduction of a hormone – prolactin, which can lead to changes in the sexual function and infertility. Hyperprolactinemia is diagnosed in 0.2-0.3% of the general population.