These symptoms indicate a pituitary tumor!


Pituitary tumor = tumor of the pituitary gland


Pituitary tumors make up about one sixth of all brain tumors and are usually benign. A distinction is made between hormone-inactive and hormone-active tumors. The hormone-inactive pituitary tumors express themselves only through symptoms that arise from the suppressing effect of the tumor growth on the surrounding areas of the brain. On the other hand, hormone-active tumors cause additional symptoms that result from the overproduction of a hormone. The most common subtype of pituitary tumors is the prolactinoma, which is characterized by an excessive production of prolactin. There are also TSH-producing, growth hormone-producing and ACTH-producing pituitary tumors. You can find out exactly what these tumors do 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 the location directly at the junction of the optic nerve, a characteristic visual disturbance can also occur (see below). Particularly large pituitary tumors can also cause constant malaise, nausea and vomiting due to the increase in intracranial pressure.

In addition to the symptoms triggered by the displacing growth, other complaints can arise if the tumor is hormone-active. For example, overproduction of TSH can lead to an overactive thyroid with cardiac arrhythmia, weight loss and sensitivity to heat.

For more information, see: Symptoms of an overactive thyroid

A growth hormone-producing pituitary tumor, on the other hand, can lead to giant growth in children and acromegaly (enlargement of fingers, nose and forehead bulges) in adults. Finally, a prolactinoma manifests itself in women through menstrual cycle disorders and galactorrhea (milky discharge from the breast) and in men in the form of impotence and sex drive disorders.

Headache as a symptom of a pituitary tumor

For many people, headaches are the first symptom of a pituitary tumor. However, it should be emphasized that headaches are of course only in very few cases actually due to a tumor and usually have more harmless causes. The headache associated with a pituitary tumor usually consists of a permanent headache with only minor fluctuations over the course of the day. Often, those affected can locate the headache centrally behind the forehead, depending on the position of the pituitary gland. Since the tumor can also affect nerves that are responsible for the meninges, diffuse headaches can also occur over the entire head in the course of the disease.

Since the headaches are usually caused by other causes than a pituitary tumor, we recommend our website: Headache in the forehead area

Characteristic visual disturbance in a pituitary tumor

A particularly characteristic symptom of a pituitary tumor is the visual disturbance known as bitemporal hemianopia. It is characterized by a loss or impairment of vision in the outer right and left areas of the visual field, which is why this type of visual disorder is also known as the "blinders phenomenon". As a rule, those affected notice a relatively steady progressive loss of visual acuity in the areas mentioned. To a small extent, however, there may also be fluctuations depending on the time of day or mood.

The cause of this phenomenon lies in the anatomy: the pituitary gland is in the immediate vicinity of the optic chiasm. This is a junction of those nerve fibers that carry the visual information for the right and left outer visual fields from the eye to the brain. If a pituitary tumor continues to grow, at some point it will “push off” the nerve fibers and impair the flow of information.

You can find more information that might interest you at: Anatomy and diseases of the optic nerve

Symptoms of a TSH producing pituitary tumor

TSH is the abbreviation for thyroid stimulating hormone, which also describes the hormone's job. It is made in the pituitary gland and powers the thyroid gland. If there is an overproduction of TSH as a result of a pituitary tumor, the thyroid is driven to its peak performance and, in turn, produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormones (especially thyroxine). The increased level of thyroid hormones then ultimately results in a variety of symptoms.

These include, for example, unwanted and unusually rapid weight loss or reduced heat tolerance: those affected sweat excessively and, for example, feel the room temperature is much warmer than other people. In many sufferers, a goiter (goiter) also forms over time. The cardiovascular system is also affected: This shows increased blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias can occur.In addition, the sugar metabolism can also be influenced to the extent that an increased blood sugar level is recorded. This is particularly problematic for diabetics. Other possible symptoms of a TSH-producing pituitary tumor include bone loss, menstrual disorders, and hair loss.

Also read: Symptoms of an overactive thyroid

Symptoms of a growth hormone producing tumor

Some of the cells of the pituitary gland produce growth hormone. In children, a pituitary tumor that originates from these cells can lead to unexpected growth spurts or even giant growth. If, on the other hand, the tumor occurs after the growth plates have closed, usually only the fingers, nose and forehead bulges grow excessively - a symptom that is referred to by experts as acromegaly.

For more information, see: Acromegaly

But in addition to its central and main function, which can be derived from the name, growth hormone also influences bone metabolism and the turnover of the main nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat. As a result, a growth hormone-producing tumor can also lead to bone loss and metabolic disorders.

Does a nosebleed indicate a pituitary tumor?

In theory, nosebleeds can occur with brain or skull tumors, but this is more typical for tumors in the paranasal sinuses or in the throat. The pituitary gland, on the other hand, is separated from the interior of the nose by bony structures, which is why normally blood cannot penetrate from the pituitary gland to the nose at all. In addition, pituitary tumors are characterized by displacing and non-infiltrative growth, so that bleeding is very atypical anyway. So if you only suffer from regular nosebleeds, but do not experience any of the other symptoms described above, fear of a tumor is really unfounded. In this case, get an ENT doctor to examine you to determine the real cause of the nosebleed.

For more information, see: Causes of nosebleeds

Symptoms of a pituitary tumor in children

In general, pituitary tumors occur predominantly in middle-aged people between 35 and 45 years of age. Occasionally, however, fall ill on children. Diagnosing them is often complicated by the fact that they cannot describe and localize their symptoms as clearly as adults can. In principle, however, a pituitary tumor in children manifests itself through the same spectrum of symptoms as in adults. So you initially complain of headaches behind the forehead or over the whole head. Older children also report loss or impairment of vision in the outer areas. In the case of smaller children, on the other hand, simple tests are available to check the ability to see: for example, place visual, appealing stimuli (e.g. candy or toys) in the outer area of ​​the child's field of vision and observe whether and how determinedly the child focuses its attention on the stimulus .

If the pituitary tumor produces growth hormone, this can lead to accelerated and uncontrolled growth. The decisive factor here is the course: if the child has always been taller than the average, it is not surprising if this tendency continues into adolescence. On the other hand, you should be careful if the child experiences a sudden, immense growth spurt. However, it should be emphasized here that such developments are only rarely triggered by a pituitary tumor.