Symptoms, diagnosis and tests

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Symptoms of a pituitary condition

What are some of the symptoms adults with a condition of the pituitary gland experience?

If you have persistent symptoms - ask your GP to investigate.

The following list shows many of the symptoms associated with pituitary conditions.

It covers different pituitary conditions and patients will not display all of these symptoms, only the ones relevant to their particular condition.

You should see your GP if you have any of these symptoms but, remember, having some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a pituitary condition. 

Once you are diagnosed, it may help you to know about other symptoms which you might experience that are associated with your condition. Please make sure you tell your doctors about all symptoms that you experience, this will help them to treat you.

  • Headaches 
  • Vision problems 
  • Unexplained weight gain 
  • Loss of libido 
  • Feeling dizzy and nauseous 
  • Pale complexion 
  • Muscle wasting 
  • Coarsening of facial features 
  • Enlarged hands and feet 
  • Excessive sweating and oily skin 
  • Moon face (with reddened skin on face) 
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pituitary gland condition symptoms in children

What are some of the symptoms of a pituitary condition in children?

In children with hypopituitarism from birth (congenital hypopituitarism), the anterior pituitary may be small and the posterior pituitary placed in an abnormal position.

Such children often have several hormone deficiencies including growth hormone deficiency.

In some children, the optic nerves are thin (Optic Nerve Hypoplasia) and accompanied by the absence of a midline curtain-like structure, the septum pellucidum.

The combination of these problems may be associated with hypopituitarism, a condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia.

In this condition, there may be problems with fluid balance hormones. This is called Diabetes Insipidus, or water diabetes.

Brain tumours

In some, hypopituitarism can also be due to brain tumours or head injury. The commonest brain tumour in children causing hypopituitarism is a Craniopharyngioma.

This tumour starts from the hypothalamus, the part of the brain above the pituitary gland. The tumour can press on the optic nerves and cause loss of vision. Children with this tumour often pass water more frequently (Diabetes Insipidus). 

In most children with hypopituitarism, growth is slow due to growth hormone deficiency. This is noticeable when plotting on a growth chart and comparing against the parents' heights.

Some children may be tired due to low thyroid hormone levels or low levels of Cortisol. In others, puberty may not progress due to a lack of gonadotrophins.

Occasionally, some children, especially with Septo Optic Dysplasia or who have had brain radiation, may paradoxically enter puberty earlier than expected. 

Rarely, the pituitary gland can be large due to a tumour within the gland. Such a tumour may produce excess ACTH and cause a condition called Cushing's disease, in which the child becomes overweight. In others, prolactin may be in excess, with milk secretion from the nipples.

Some symptoms in children can include:

  • Poor growth
  • Loss of vision
  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive frequency of passing urine
  • Tiredness
  • Overweight
  • Late puberty
  • Early puberty
  • Milk secretion

Symptoms related to specific conditions

Acromegaly

  • Increased shoe size, gloves, hats, shirt collar, over months or years
  • Headaches
  • Joint pains 
  • Facial pain - changes to bite as the jaw moves forward and/or spacing of teeth may change
  • Sweating
  • Increased weight
  • Mood swings
  • Tongue grows
  • Speech differences i.e. deeper voice, with possible lisping sound
  • Sleep apnoea (snoring with episodes of interrupted catching of breath)

Cushing's disease

  • Weight gain to trunk of body, plus rounding of face
  • Fatty hump at top of spine/back
  • Flushed appearance and roundness of face
  • Low mood, can feel depressed
  • Loss of bone density (if left untreated over time) due to excess cortisol
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Weakness, possible muscle wasting
  • Darkening of skin pigmentation
  • Dark purple striae (similar to stretch marks on abdomen and tops of thighs)
  • Hirsutism (extreme hairiness)

Diabetes Insipidus (DI)

  • Passing excessive urine much more than usual during the day and frequently through the night
  • Urine is very pale, possibly clear and doesn’t concentrate
  • Extreme thirst, which cannot be quenched
  • Preference of icy cold drinks
  • Headaches (which may be due to dehydration)
  • Exhaustion
  • Shivering
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration symptoms: parched mouth, cracked lips, coated tongue, dry eyes and dry skin
  • Most foods intolerable with a preference to drink fluids
  • Weight loss

Hypopituitarism

(can include cortisol, growth hormone and thyroid deficiencies)

  • Flu type feelings low or no cortisol in body, regular colds and/or infections 'hung over’ type feeling without having drunk alcohol
  • No body temperature control either feeling too hot, or too cold
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings feelings of depression, apathy or low mood
  • Joint aches and pains, and/or poor muscle tone
  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Low blood pressure feeling light-heade
  • Pale pallor

Prolactinoma

  • Loss of periods (female)
  • Infertility
  • Low or lack of libido 
  • Weight gain bloated stomach
  • Lethargy/exhaustion, falling asleep during day
  • Headaches
  • Milk/fluid excreting from nipples when not pregnant (males can have this too)