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Hypopituitarism in Children

Hypopituitarism in Children Overview

The pituitary is a small gland located at the base of the brain, roughly in the space between your eyes. It is responsible for the regulation and secretion of a number of different hormones both in adults and in children. These are described in detail below.

Hypopituitarism is a condition in which the pituitary gland does not produce enough of one or more of these hormones. This condition may occur because of disease in the pituitary gland or hypothalamus (a part of the brain that controls the pituitary gland). When there is low or no production of all the pituitary hormones, the condition is called hypopituitarism. Hypopituitarism can occur at any age.

Picture of the Pituitary Gland
Picture of the Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland sends signals to other glands to produce hormones (for example, it makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH - which regulates production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland). The hormones released by the pituitary and other glands have a significant impact on important bodily functions, such as growth, reproduction, blood pressure, and metabolism (the physical and chemical processes of the body). When levels of one or more of these hormones are not properly balanced, the body's normal functions can be affected.

The pituitary gland produces several hormones.

  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulates the two adrenal glands, each placed close to a kidney. ACTH triggers these adrenal glands to release hormones, including adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol, which regulate many aspects of metabolism, immune function, and blood pressure.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are hormones that control sexual development and function in males and females. They are also called gonadotropins and control production of the sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) as well as egg and sperm production.
  • Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone that stimulates normal growth of bones and tissues throughout the body.
  • Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates milk production and female breast growth for lactation.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a hormone that stimulates production and secretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland (a gland in the front and middle of the neck). Thyroid hormone regulates the body's metabolism and is essential for growth and brain development.
  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) is a hormone that controls water loss by the kidneys.

In hypopituitarism, the level of one or more of these pituitary hormones is insufficient. The lack of hormone results in a loss of function of the gland or organ that it controls.

The most common pituitary hormone deficiency is growth hormone deficiency. In the United States, growth hormone deficiency occurs rarely with a frequency of less than 1 in 3,480 children.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2014

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Hypopituitarism »

Hypopituitarism is a partial or complete insufficiency of pituitary hormone secretion, which may derive from pituitary or hypothalamic disease.

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