What is the pituitary gland?
The pituitary gland is a pea-sized bit of tissue at the bottom of your brain. Glands are organs that make and release hormones into your blood. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. The pituitary gland puts out many different hormones. Each pituitary hormone controls a different gland and body function.
The pituitary gland is controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
Locating the Pituitary Gland
What are pituitary hormones?
Each pituitary hormone controls different glands and body functions.
Pituitary hormones include:
ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone): Controls your adrenal gland Overview of the Adrenal Glands Glands make and release hormones. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Because hormones are in your blood, they travel throughout your body. They can affect... read more hormones, which affect heart rate, blood pressure, and the balance of salt and water in your body
Growth hormone: Controls how fast and big your body grows
Thyroid-stimulating hormone: Controls your thyroid gland Overview of the Thyroid Gland Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in the front of your neck. Glands make and release hormones. Hormones stimulate other cells or tissues into action. The thyroid makes thyroid hormones... read more hormones, which control how fast your body's chemical functions work (metabolic rate)
Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone: Control your sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, which affect fertility
Prolactin: Controls the production of breast milk
What happens if your pituitary gland doesn't work right?
Your pituitary gland may:
Not make enough hormones
Make too many hormones
Sometimes there's a problem with only one pituitary hormone. Other times, you have a problem with many or all of the hormones.
If your pituitary gland produces too much, or not enough, of a hormone, you can get health problems such as:
Excessive thirst and urination, which can dehydrate you (central diabetes insipidus Central Diabetes Insipidus Central diabetes insipidus is not having enough of a hormone called vasopressin. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Vasopressin is a hormone that signals... read more )
What causes problems with the pituitary gland?
Causes of pituitary gland problems include:
A head injury
How can doctors tell if I have pituitary gland problems?
Doctors suspect pituitary gland problems from your symptoms. They'll do tests such as:
CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more (computed tomography) or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain to see if your pituitary gland has grown or shrunk
Blood tests measuring hormone levels from the hypothalamus, pituitary, and other glands
How do doctors treat pituitary gland problems?
Treatment depends on the type of problem you have. It may include:
Medicine to counteract the effect of too many hormones
Surgery to remove a tumor
Hormone therapy to replace hormones your body doesn't make enough of