Illustration of pituitary gland situated in brain

About the Pituitary

The pituitary gland, a tiny organ only the size of a pea, located at the base of the brain, produces several hormones. (Hormones are natural chemicals that control many body functions, ranging from growth to fertility.) The pituitary gland is also part of the endocrine system, a collection of glands that sends hormones around the body and regulates their levels. The pituitary gland controls the function of some of those other glands, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Normal and abnormal function

Pituitary hormones and regulation

The pituitary gland makes the following hormones:

  • Prolactin
  • GH (growth hormone)
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone)
  • TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)
  • LH (luteinizing hormone)
  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)

The other organs in your body send signals back to the pituitary gland that help it keep sending the right amount of hormones.

Part of the pituitary gland connects to the hypothalamus, a gland at the base of your brain. The hypothalamus also makes hormones that the pituitary gland stores until they are needed.

Pituitary disorders: symptoms and progression

If you have a pituitary disorder, the pituitary gland may make too much or too little of one or more of a certain hormone. When these hormones are out of balance, the body does not function normally, and you can feel very sick. Other times, these imbalances can take a long time to develop into obvious symptoms. Plus, some of the common symptoms are similar to other diseases, so the pituitary disorder can be overlooked as a root cause. Pituitary disorders may also cause other concerns, such as vision and fertility problems, that may need treatment.

Unfortunately, some people can go for many years without an accurate medical evaluation. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal growth (in children or young adults)
  • Abnormal periods
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hair loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Lactation
  • Low energy
  • Low sex drive
  • Vision changes

At the OHSU Pituitary Center, our endocrinologists have refined skills in identifying problems that start with the pituitary gland.

Conditions we treat

Pituitary conditions we treat

Pituitary gland disorders are not very common, so finding experienced doctors willing to collaborate with other specialists is key. At the OHSU Pituitary Center, our doctors are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of all pituitary-related conditions. We see a high volume of pituitary patients each year. We have experience with medications recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration and other medications used off-label, as well as the latest surgical techniques. No other facility in the region, and few in the United States, can equal our expertise and resources.

Some of the most common pituitary conditions we treat are:

Other pituitary conditions we treat:

  • Autoimmune hypophysitis
  • Pituitary disease in women: hypopituitarism in pregnancy, pituitary tumors and pregnancy
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Sellar tumors
    • Meningioma
    • Chordoma
  • Hormonal deficiencies
    • Adrenal Insufficiency
    • Diabetes insipidus
    • Hypogonadism
    • Hypothyroidism