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Conditions We Treat: Pituitary Disorders

The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland located just off the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. Known as the “master gland,” it secretes hormones that regulate the functions of other glands, as well as growth and several body functions. Overactivity and underactivity of the pituitary gland can cause a range of conditions, including those that affect sexual development, thyroid function, growth, skin pigmentation and adrenocortical function.

There is no obvious cause for pituitary tumors. Some might be caused by stimulation from the hypothalamus, which signals the pituitary gland to make hormones.

Pituitary Disorders:  What You Need to Know

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  • Acromegaly occurs when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormones. Affecting mostly middle-aged adults, symptoms vary and can include swelling of hands and feet, coarsening of facial features and body hair, increasing perspiration and body order, irregular menstrual cycles and breast milk production in women, and impotence in men. More than 95 percent of acromegaly cases are caused by benign tumors on the pituitary gland.
  • Diabetes insipidus results from insufficient production of ADH, a hormone that helps the body conserve the correct amount of water. Diabetes insipidus is not related to the more common type of diabetes, diabetes mellitus, although some of the symptoms—excessive thirst, excessive urine production and dehydration—are similar.
  • Empty sella syndrome is characterized by an enlarged bony structure that houses the pituitary gland at the base of the brain; additional symptoms, although there may also be none, can include impotence, reduced sexual desire and irregular menstruation. 
  • Hypopituitarism, also called an underactive pituitary gland, affects the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, usually resulting in a partial or complete loss of functioning of that lobe.
  • Most pituitary tumors are benign. However, because of the location of the pituitary gland, many pituitary tumors press against the optic nerves, causing vision problems. In addition, pituitary tumors that produce excess amounts of hormones overstimulate other endocrine glands and cause symptoms specific to the overproduced hormone.

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Why choose Johns Hopkins for treatment of pituitary disorders?

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Dr. Roberto Salvatori

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Lead by Dr. Roberto Salvatori, the Johns Hopkins Pituitary Tumor Center  is a world-class, multidisciplinary center of experts, diagnosing and treating all types of pituitary disorders, including pituitary tumors, adenomas, craniopharyngiomas, Rathke's cleft cysts and pituitary gland disorders.