Hormone & metabolism centre in Mainz: information about the pituitary gland
Function and importance of the pituitary gland
This small organ is located on the lower side of the human brain. Like a cherry stone-sized droplet, the pituitary gland is located roughly at the level of the root of the nose and lies protected in a bone cavity. Although the organ is very unassuming, it is extremely important to our metabolism. The pituitary gland is a central control organ in our hormone metabolism. Vital hormones are produced in it:
- The growth hormone (STH)
- The hormone ACTH, which stimulates the adrenal glands. It is responsible for the function of the adrenal cortex (stress hormones)
- Prolactin (PRL), which influences the flow of milk during pregnancy and lactation
- LH and FSH – hormones that regulate the function of the sex hormones in males and females
- TSH, which controls the thyroid gland
- The antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which influences thirst and the quantity we drink (posterior pituitary gland lobe).
The pituitary gland consists of the anterior pituitary gland lobe (AP) and the posterior pituitary gland lobe (PP). The pituitary gland is firmly connected to the brain via the pituitary stalk. The ‘pars intermedia’ is located between the two lobes. The melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), which regulates the skin’s UV protection, the appetite and sexual excitation, is formed there.
The anterior pituitary gland lobe is a gland
While the anterior pituitary gland lobe (AP) is connected to the hypothalamus by means of blood vessels, it is not part of the brain but rather a gland in the classical sense. The anterior pituitary gland lobe consists of several cell types in which hormones are formed. The hormones are released into the blood stream and thereby reach the target organs.
The posterior pituitary gland lobe (PP) is part of the brain
Conversely, the posterior pituitary gland lobe (PP) is part of the brain. It is also called the neurohypophysis. As part of the hypothalamus, the ‘hormone-balance computer’, its task is to store the two hormones vasopressin (ADH) and oxytocin and to release them to the body as required. While the hormone oxytocin triggers labour pains and milk production at the end of pregnancy, the hormone ADH regulates the body’s fluid requirements via the kidneys.
Pituitary gland diseases
Completely different diseases can disturb the pituitary gland’s hormone formation and hormone release, causing it to produce too many or too few hormones. A tumour can press against the pituitary gland, for instance. An inflammation of the brain or the meninges can affect its function. An accident or surgery can also impair or damage the pituitary gland with the result that it produces too few hormones.
The control circuits of our hormone balance are complex
A hormone imbalance can result in various disorders. The endocrinologist’s task is to investigate these disorders. Besides an exhaustive discussion with the patient (medical history discussion), special blood tests help to obtain indications of the causes if a pituitary gland disease is suspected. Often, imaging methods (e.g. MRI) are necessary to examine the condition of the pituitary gland.
Which pituitary gland diseases occur?
Pituitary gland diseases rarely occur. If such a disease does occur, however, it is often serious. This usually involves tumour diseases. The majority of pituitary gland tumours are what are called benign adenomas, not ‘brain tumours’. Due to the central importance of the pituitary gland, however, they have a significant impact on patients. Prof. Wüster is specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of pituitary gland diseases.
Symptoms and clinical pictures of pituitary gland tumours
Pituitary gland tumours can trigger very different symptoms and complaints in patients:
- Due to the size of a tumour, pressure can be applied on other areas of the brain and the nervous system, e.g. on the optic nerve. This can lead to visual impairments.
- Pituitary gland tumours also often lead to a change in the release of pituitary gland hormones. A hormonal hypofunction often occurs depending on the location of the tumour. Growth disorders in children and adolescents, sex hormone formation disorders in adults and further impairments are seen in this context.
Diagnosis and therapy at the hormone & metabolism centre in Mainz
The hormone & metabolism centre offers patients concentrated expertise and a wealth of experience in the treatment of pituitary gland diseases.