Pituitary tumor = tumor of the pituitary gland
Pituitary tumours account for about one sixth of all brain tumours and are usually benign. A distinction is made between tumours that are hormonally active and those that are hormonally inactive. The hormone-inactive pituitary tumours only manifest themselves through symptoms that arise from the suppressive effect of tumour growth on surrounding areas of the brain.
Hormonally active tumours, on the other hand, cause additional symptoms resulting from the overproduction of a hormone. The most common subtype of pituitary tumour is the prolactinoma, which is characterised by an excessive production of prolactin. There are also TSH-producing, growth hormone-producing and ACTH-producing pituitary tumours. What exactly these tumours do is explained in the following sections.
Overview of all symptoms
All pituitary tumors can cause symptoms that result from the displacement of surrounding areas of the brain. These primarily include headaches, which are often the first symptom of the disease. Due to its location directly at the intersection of the optic nerves, a characteristic visual disturbance may also occur (see below).
Particularly large pituitary tumours can also cause constant discomfort, nausea and vomiting due to the increase in intracranial pressure. In addition to the symptoms triggered by the suppressive growth, further complaints can arise if the tumour is hormone active. For example, an overproduction of TSH can lead to hyperthyroidism with cardiac arrhythmia, weight loss and sensitivity to heat.
A growth hormone-producing pituitary tumour, on the other hand, can lead to giant growth in children and acromegaly (enlargement of fingers, nose and forehead bulges) in adults. Finally, prolactinoma manifests itself in women in the form of cycle disorders and galactorrhoea (milky discharge from the breast) and in men in the form of impotence and sexual drive disorders. A growth hormone-producing pituitary tumour, on the other hand, can lead to giant growth in children and acromegaly (enlargement of fingers, nose and forehead bulges) in adults.
Finally, prolactinoma manifests itself in women in the form of cycle disorders and galactorrhoea (milky discharge from the breast) and in men in the form of impotence and sexual drive disorders. For many people affected, headaches are the first symptom of a pituitary tumour. However, it should be stressed that headaches are of course only in very few cases actually caused by a tumour and usually have more harmless causes.
The headache associated with a pituitary tumour usually exists as a continuous headache with only slight variations during the course of the day. Often, patients can locate the headache centrally behind the forehead, depending on the position of the pituitary gland. However, since the tumour can also affect nerves that are responsible for the meninges, diffuse headaches spread over the entire head can also occur during the course of the disease.
Since there are usually causes other than a pituitary tumour behind the headache, we recommend our page on: Headaches in the forehead areaA particularly characteristic symptom of a pituitary tumour is the visual disturbance known as bitemporal hemianopsia. It is characterised by a loss or reduction of vision in the outer right and left areas of the visual field, which is why this type of visual disturbance is also known as “blinker phenomenon”. As a rule, those affected notice a relatively steady progressive loss of visual acuity in these areas.
To a lesser extent, however, fluctuations can also be observed depending on the time of day or mood. The cause of this phenomenon lies in the anatomy: The pituitary gland is located in the immediate vicinity of the optic chiasm. This is a crossing of those nerve fibres that carry the visual information for the right and left external visual field from the eye to the brain.
If a pituitary tumour continues to grow, it will eventually “squeeze” the nerve fibres and impair the flow of information. TSH is the abbreviation for thyroid-stimulating hormone, which also describes the task of the hormone. It is produced in the pituitary gland and drives the thyroid gland (thyroidea).
If there is an overproduction of TSH in the context of a pituitary tumour, the thyroid gland is driven to peak performance and in turn produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones (especially thyroxine). The increased thyroid hormone level then ultimately results in a wide range of symptoms. These include unwanted and unusually rapid weight loss or reduced heat tolerance: Those affected sweat excessively and feel, for example, that room temperature is much warmer than other people.
In many cases, a goiter (goiter) also forms over time. The cardiovascular system is also affected: Here, an elevated blood pressure is evident and cardiac arrhythmia can occur. In addition, the sugar metabolism can also be affected to the extent that an elevated blood sugar level is recorded.
This is particularly problematic for diabetics. Other possible symptoms of a TSH-producing pituitary tumour include bone loss, cycle disorders and hair loss. Some cells of the pituitary gland produce growth hormone.
In children, a pituitary tumour originating from these cells can lead to unexpected growth spurts, up to giant growths. If, on the other hand, the tumour occurs after the growth joints have closed, usually only the fingers, nose and forehead bulges grow excessively – a symptom known by experts as acromegaly. However, in addition to its central function, which can be derived from its name, the growth hormone also influences bone metabolism and the turnover of the main nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Consequently, a growth hormone-producing tumour can also cause bone loss and metabolic disorders. However, in addition to its central function, which can be inferred from its name, the growth hormone also influences bone metabolism and the turnover of the main nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat. Consequently, a growth hormone-producing tumour can also cause bone loss and metabolic disorders.