Pathologies of the Pituitary Gland

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  • 0:35 Study of Pituitary Pathology
  • 1:27 Pathologies Related to…
  • 3:12 Pathologies Related to…
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson will cover some of the pathologies that are associated with the anterior and posterior pituitary glands. We will look at the signs and symptoms of each condition. Then test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Studying Pituitary Pathology

Being a parent has been an exciting experience. There's nothing like watching your child grow and develop. You have been marking the wall, charting the height of your children. One day you happen to notice that one of your sons is growing at a faster rate than the others and is quite a bit taller. You think this is great, but want to get him checked out by his doctor to be sure nothing is wrong.

Your son's doctor refers you to a endocrinologist, which is a specialist who studies the hormones and glands of the body. There are times when something may go wrong with our glands just like with any other part of the body. The diseases and condition of the glands and hormones are called endocrinopathy. There are two main things that may happen when a gland malfunctions. When a gland is overactive, it can cause hypercrinism, a condition due to excessive secretion of hormones. The opposite may happen where a gland is underactive and causes a condition due to not enough secretion of hormones called hypocrinism.

The pituitary gland is responsible for secreting many hormones between the anterior and posterior pituitary. The endocrinologist may check to see if your son is experiencing faster than normal growth due to problems in the pituitary gland since its hormones are responsible for growth. Let's look at one possibility as well as other pathologies that can arise with the pituitary gland.

Pathologies Related to Hyperpituitarism

Any time the pituitary gland produces and releases more hormones than normal, this is known as hyperpituitarism. Hyperpituitarism is likely due to pituitary adenoma, which is a tumor in the pituitary gland that is non-cancerous. The tumor may appear anywhere in the anterior or posterior pituitary gland. Where the tumor is located will determine which hormones are released in excess. hGH, or human growth hormone, may be the hormone released in excess with this condition. The timing of when hGH is released in excess is also important in determining which condition could be occurring.

Since your son is young and hasn't reached puberty, the most likely condition would be gigantism. This is when excessive hGH is released before puberty causing bones to grow longer. Some of the signs and symptoms that you may notice if your son has this condition are that he is growing taller quickly and has a larger body size than other children his age. Over time, you may realize that sexual and mental growth is actually happening slower than other children his age.

The other condition that it could have been, if he was older, that falls under hyperpituitarism is acromegaly, which occurs when hGH is released in excess after puberty is complete. hGH released at this point will cause the bones of the face and soft tissues to grow as opposed to the bones of the arms and legs. Some signs and symptoms of this condition are larger hands and feet, jaw growth causing the teeth to separate and joint pain. This is most often seen in adults around the age of 30 to 40.

Pathologies Related to Hypopituitarism

Just like your son may have too much activity, there can also be a lack of activity in the pituitary gland. Hypopituitarism is when the pituitary gland doesn't release enough or any of its hormones. This condition is most severe if the anterior pituitary hormones are the ones not being released since there are so many of them. Problems with slow growth, metabolism, and sexual development may occur as a result of this condition. The hormones of the pituitary gland are largely responsible for communicating with other glands in the body, so these glands and the hormones also reduce in function.

While your son is growing very fast, there are some parents wondering why their son or daughter is growing very slowly. Growth hormone deficiency is a condition of decreased hGH that causes underdevelopment or dwarfism. Some symptoms of this condition are being extremely short, smaller than other children the same age, mental retardation and lack of development of secondary sex characteristics. The doctor will normally give hGH shots to a child to help with development until the child grows to about 5 feet tall.

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