Hypopituitarism is a rare condition in which there’s a deficiency of one, multiple or all of the hormones made by your pituitary gland. Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypopituitarism depend on which hormones are lacking. Hypopituitarism happens when there’s a disorder of or damage to your pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Hypopituitarism is a rare condition in which there’s a lack (deficiency) of one, multiple or all of the hormones made by your pituitary gland. Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
The pituitary hormones are in charge of important functions in your body, such as metabolism, growth and development and reproduction. Your pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland located at the base of your brain below your hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls your autonomic nervous system). It’s a part of your endocrine system.
Your pituitary gland is connected to your hypothalamus through a stalk of blood vessels and nerves. This is called the pituitary stalk. Through the stalk, your hypothalamus communicates with your pituitary gland and tells it to release certain hormones. Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that controls functions like blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and digestion.
Hypopituitarism can occur from disorders of or damage to your pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
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Your pituitary gland makes the following hormones:
There are three different kinds of hypopituitarism based on the number of hormones that are lacking (deficient):
There are three kinds of hypopituitarism based on the cause of it and how your pituitary gland and its hormones are affected:
Hypopituitarism can affect anyone at any age, though it’s a rare condition.
Hypopituitarism is a rare condition. There are approximately 10 to 40 new cases per one million people a year.
The symptoms of hypopituitarism depend on which pituitary hormone(s) are affected and deficient (lacking). The following factors also affect what kind of symptoms you’ll experience:
Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in newborns include:
Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in children include:
Symptoms of growth hormone deficiency in adults include:
Symptoms of thyroid-stimulating hormone deficiency in newborns include:
Symptoms of thyroid-stimulating hormone deficiency in children and adults are similar to symptoms of hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. This is because TSH stimulates your thyroid to produce its own hormones.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
FSH and LH are called gonadotropins and affect your reproductive system.
Symptoms of FSH deficiency and/or LH deficiency in newborns assigned male at birth include:
Symptoms of FSH deficiency and/or LH deficiency in children include:
Symptoms of FSH deficiency and/or LH deficiency in adults assigned male at birth include:
Symptoms of FSH deficiency and/or LH deficiency in adult assigned female at birth can include:
Symptoms of ACTH deficiency in newborns include:
Symptoms of ACTH deficiency in children and adults include:
The main symptom of prolactin deficiency is a lack of breast milk production after giving birth.
Symptoms of oxytocin deficiency include:
Symptoms of ADH deficiency in newborns include:
Symptoms of ADH deficiency in children include:
Symptoms of ADH deficiency in adults can include:
Many conditions and situations can cause hypopituitarism. In some cases, healthcare providers can’t determine the cause. This is called idiopathic hypopituitarism. In general, these three main factors can cause hypopituitarism:
Examples of conditions that can cause pressure on your pituitary gland or hypothalamus include:
Examples of situations that can cause pituitary or hypothalamus damage include:
Examples of rare conditions that can cause hypopituitarism include:
Your healthcare provider may order any of the following tests to diagnose hypopituitarism:
Treatment for hypopituitarism depends on which pituitary hormone(s) are deficient and the cause of the hypopituitarism. For that reason, treatment is very individualized. Your healthcare team will determine what the best treatment plan is for you. Common treatment options for hypopituitarism include:
Currently, there’s no known cure for hypopituitarism, but it is treatable.
The following conditions or situations are considered risk factors for hypopituitarism:
Unfortunately, there are no known ways to prevent hypopituitarism.
The prognosis for hypopituitarism varies and depends on the following four factors:
In most cases, people with hypopituitarism require close, lifelong monitoring of their hormones and symptoms. While many people with hypopituitarism lead healthy lives, long-term pituitary damage is associated with an increased risk of mortality (death) compared to people without hypopituitarism of the same age.
Although it is not as common, a sudden and severe onset of hypopituitarism can result in a medical emergency and death if it’s not treated. Be sure to call your healthcare provider or go to the nearest emergency room if you are experiencing symptoms.
In most cases, hypopituitarism requires close, lifelong monitoring of the hormones affected. Be sure to see your healthcare provider regularly to make sure your treatment plan is working. If you’re experiencing new or concerning symptoms, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypopituitarism, you may want to ask your healthcare provider the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic:
A new diagnosis can be scary, but don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider questions about your hypopituitarism. Most cases of hypopituitarism require lifelong treatment and monitoring of your hormones, so it is important to see your provider regularly. Be sure to contact your provider if you have new or concerning symptoms. They’re there to help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/22/2021.
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