The pituitary is a pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. This tiny gland produces hormones that regulate different functions in the body. When the pituitary gland over produces hormones, the condition is called hyperpituitarism. This gland is important in producing hormones that regulate growth, blood pressure, metabolism and sexual function. In terms of fertility, the pituitary regulates sexual function and reproduction.
Hyperpituitarism can cause symptoms of galactorrhea or prolactinoma, a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. Prolactinoma results in high levels of the prolactin hormone. Galactorrhea is a condition where the high prolactin levels stimulate the breasts to produce milk in women who are not pregnant and not breast feeding. This can occur spontaneously or when the breast nipples are squeezed.
Higher levels of prolactin can also lead to irregular periods. In some cases, the menstrual cycle will stop altogether. Reproductive dysfunctions can occur when normal estrogen and progesterone levels are interrupted, causing the ovaries stop releasing eggs or causing them to release eggs irregularly. The uterine lining is also affected by altered hormone levels, making it difficult for an embryo to implant.
Treatment for Hyperpituitarism
Tumors affecting the pituitary gland are usually noncancerous, and they can be treated, although some are difficult to treat. Some types of tumors continue to recur despite treatment. In most cases involving fertility problems, medications are prescribed to help restore normal hormone levels and shrink the size of a prolactinoma.
Tests are necessary in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Testing includes measurement of prolactin levels in the blood. An underactive thyroid, also called hypothyroidism, can also cause elevated prolactin levels. Tests can determine if the higher levels of prolactin are caused by hyperpituitarism or hypothyroidism. Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will recommend treatment options.
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