Pituitary Tumor Symptoms - What You Need To Know

Pituitary Tumor Symptoms – What You Need To Know

By: - Health & Fitness - July 19, 2011
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The symptoms of pituitary tumors are biochemical primarily, but physical symptoms of pituitary tumor develop as well.  While pituitary tumors are not exceedingly common, neither are they extremely rare, and as such, it is smart to know what to look for. The basic symptom profile includes:

  • Headache
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Pituitary hormonal deficiency symptoms such as:

–          Constipation

–          Intolerance to cold

–          Lowered blood pressure

–          Constipation

–          Loss of body hair

–          Sexual dysfunction

–          Unexplained weight loss or gain

Tumors of the pituitary gland, called “functioning tumors”, secrete certain hormones, depending on the cell type involved.  These fit into different categories and cause an overproduction of particular pituitary hormones. This is what leads to pituitary tumor symptoms. Hormone imbalances like these can be easily detected through blood tests and may be found through routine testing, but are more often found when physical symptoms of pituitary tumor begin to manifest.

ACTH Tumors

ACTH, or adrenocorticotropic hormone secreting tumors cause an overproduction of ACTH resulting in an overproduction of the adrenal hormone cortisol.   This will mimic the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.  Excessive accumulation of fat around the midsection, muscular weakness, high blood pressure, bruising, stretch marks, and thinning of the skin are the most common physical symptoms of this type of pituitary tumor.

Growth Hormone Secreting Tumors

Growth hormone (GH) secretion becomes excessive with this functioning tumor type.  This creates a condition called acromegaly.  Symptoms of pituitary tumor, in this case include excessive sweating and high blood pressure, misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion), thickening of the skin, enlarged feet and hands, and degenerative arthritis, accelerated linear growth will occur in children and adolescents, uncharacteristic of a normal growth spurt.

Prolactin Secreting Tumors

Prolactin secreting tumors produce symptoms of hyperprolactinemia.  Elevated prolaction will produce different symptoms based on gender.  For women, these include irregular menstrual cycles, cessation of periods, and milky discharge from the breasts.  In men the most common symptom is enlarged breasts (gynecomastia).  Erectile dysfunction, decreased body hair, and diminished sex drive also occur.

TSH Secreting Tumors

These tumors secrete thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).  Though this is a fairly rare cause of hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid tissue produces rapid weight loss, elevated body temperature, high blood pressure, tremor, rapid pulse, and persistent nervousness and irritability.  This is the result of an overactive metabolism and can be life threatening.

Since most of the pituitary tumor symptoms are hormonal in nature, these will be the most common warning signs indicating the presence of pituitary tumors.  When these are non-functioning tumors, the physical symptoms will be more generalized to headaches and visual disturbance.  If there is a history of pituitary tumors in the family, notify your doctor so that regular screening for tumors can be consistently performed.  These symptoms, if caught early, can generally be treated with medication.  Removal of the tumor may become necessary, but they are rarely malignant and smaller tumors are typically watched carefully along with pharmacological treatment preferred over surgical intervention.  Surgery can often result in removal of the entire pituitary gland, so it is avoided when possible.