Pituitary Tumor Symptoms

How to Recognize a Pituitary Tumor

Pituitary tumors—abnormal growths that develop in your pituitary gland—have several symptoms. These symptoms usually develop gradually but can eventually lead to other endocrine disorders, such as Cushing's disease and acromegaly.

Some of the symptoms of pituitary tumors are subtle, such as fatigue and weakness, so many people overlook their symptoms and may attribute them to something else (eg, needing more sleep).

But sometimes when you have a pituitary tumor, your body produces excessive amounts of certain hormones (which hormones it overproduces depends on where the tumor is located).

Most pituitary tumors are small. Those are called microadenomas. But larger tumors, called macroadenomas, can put pressure on your pituitary gland and surrounding tissues and cause changes in your vision, such as double vision and loss of peripheral vision.

Other possible symptoms related to the pressure caused by a pituitary tumor:

  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Loss of hair on your body
  • Low blood pressure
  • Missed periods
  • Nausea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Vomiting

Not everyone with a pituitary tumor will experience all of these symptoms. Symptoms vary based on what type of tumor it is (there are 4 main types of pituitary tumors), as well as its size and shape.

Additionally, pituitary tumors can lead to certain endocrine disorders due to overproduction of specific hormones. These endocrine disorders can be associated with additional symptoms.

Endocrine disorders related to excessive hormone production by the pituitary tumor:

  • Acromegaly: This is a growth disorder caused by an excess of growth hormone. Enlarged hands and feet and misaligned teeth are a few main symptoms of acromegaly.
  • Cushing's disease: This disorder is caused by your adrenal glands producing too much cortisol in response to a pituitary hormone made by the pituitary adenoma. Symptoms can include fat accumulation around your mid-section and a hump on your upper back.
  • Hyperprolactinemia: This is an endocrine disorder caused by excessive production of prolactin. Hyperprolactinemia symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles (in women) and infertility (in men).
  • Hyperthyroidism: This is a condition that's caused by your thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone in response to a hormone made by the pituitary tumor. Hyperthyroidism symptoms include rapid or irregular heartbeat and weight loss.

Although symptoms of pituitary tumors typically develop gradually, in rare cases, symptoms can occur suddenly and can be severe.

With pituitary tumors, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial, so it's important to mention any changes in your health to your doctor, especially if you've experienced any of the symptoms of pituitary tumors listed above.

View Sources

Sources

  • Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. Volume II. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010.
  • Pituitary tumor page. MedlinePlus Web site. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000704.htm. November 15, 2010. Accessed November 30, 2010.
  • Pituitary tumors page. Mayo Clinic Web site. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pituitary-tumors/DS00533. June 5, 2010. Accessed November 30, 2010.