Blog Post

misc image

Warning Signs of a Pituitary Tumor

Playing the role of the body’s thermostat, the pituitary gland produces a range of hormones that oversee functions like metabolism, growth, and sodium balance among its many duties. Most pituitary tumors are adenomas, non-cancerous growths that sometimes affect pituitary function. 

At Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, our experienced neurosurgeon Adam Lewis, MD, helps with pituitary issues regardless of the type of treatment you need. This may include medications to suppress overproduction, hormone replacement therapy, or surgery to remove tumors. 

Pituitary tumors don’t always create symptoms and even when they do it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint their origin since they’re shared with other conditions and illnesses. 

Types of pituitary tumor

Cancerous pituitary tumors are extremely rare, accounting for less than 1% of cases. There are two types of benign tumors — functional adenoma and non-functional adenoma. A functional adenoma overproduces hormones, typically only one of the range that the gland normally produces. 

Non-functional adenomas don’t change pituitary function. They won’t cause any signs or symptoms unless they grow large. In that case, they may put pressure on nerves, other parts of the pituitary gland, or surrounding areas of the brain. Large tumors can sometimes lead to hormonal deficiencies. 

Increasingly, diagnostic imaging discovers small pituitary adenomas that produce no other symptoms. This type of tumor may require only future monitoring. 

Warning signs of a pituitary tumor

The signs and symptoms of pituitary adenomas depend on whether they’re functional or non-functional. Further, functional adenomas create different symptoms, depending on the hormone that they overproduce. 

Non-functional adenomas

Large non-functional adenomas tend to cause headaches and peripheral vision loss because of the pressure they create on surrounding brain tissue. Pressure on the pituitary gland itself may halt the production of pituitary hormones. 

Symptoms of hormone deficiencies include: 

  • Feeling cold in conditions with normal temperatures
  • Reduced menstrual activity
  • Unexpected weight changes
  • Increased urination, leading to dehydration in extreme cases
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sexual dysfunction

Small non-functional adenomas may be the most common type of the condition and these may not generate any symptoms. 

Functional adenomas

Symptoms from hormone overproduction vary, depending on the particular hormone. 

ACTH tumors make too much adrenocorticotropin, a stimulator of the adrenal gland, and it produces excess cortisol. Too much cortisol causes a condition called Cushing syndrome, which can affect mood, fat distribution, hypertension, and high blood pressure among its effects. 

Thyroid-stimulating hormone overproduction causes excess sweating, weight loss, more frequent bowel movements, heartbeat irregularities, nervousness, and irritability. 

Growth hormone-secreting tumors can cause children to grow too tall or too fast. Adults are more likely to experience signs like: 

  • Heart issues
  • High blood sugar
  • Enlarged hands and feet
  • Coarse facial features
  • Excess sweating
  • Joint pain
  • Increased body hair 
  • Crooked teeth

Prolactin-secreting tumors suppress the levels of primary sex hormones, estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Because of this, symptoms are gender-dependent. Women may see milky discharge from their breasts or changes to menstrual cycles, while men experience loss of libido, lowered sperm count, erectile dysfunction, and breast growth. 

Once you’re diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, your treatment depends on your symptoms. Doctors typically use medications, radiation therapy, or surgery. 

To get answers for your compromised pituitary function, schedule a consultation by calling our office in Flowood, Mississippi or booking your appointment online today.