Pituitary Dysfunction: Disorders and Symptoms

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  • 0:06 Pituitary Gland
  • 0:49 Pituitary Dwarfism
  • 1:28 Gigantism and Acromegaly
  • 2:38 Sterility
  • 3:27 Diabetes Insipidus
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The pituitary gland secretes hormones that affect growth, reproductive ability, and water retention. If there is a hypo- or hyper-secretion of these hormones, the result can be a number of conditions, including pituitary dwarfism, gigantism, acromegaly, sterility, or diabetes insipidus.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is a small gland that secretes a number of hormones that affect everything from your body's metabolism to water retention, growth and development, and reproduction. These hormones play an important role in the homeostasis, or internal equilibrium, of the human body. But, if something goes wrong and the pituitary gland secretes too much or too little of a certain hormone, then a disorder or disease will develop. In this lesson, we will look at how hyper- or hypo-secretions of these tiny hormones can lead to big changes in body structure and function, including conditions such as dwarfism, gigantism, sterility, and diabetes insipidus.

Pituitary Dwarfism

Growth hormone (GH), as its name would suggest, is a hormone that promotes growth.

Growth hormone is produced in the anterior pituitary gland, and in proper amounts, it stimulates the bone and muscle growth needed for normal physical growth in children.

The front of the pituitary gland produces GH.
Anterior Pituitary GH Diagram

If too little growth hormone is secreted during childhood, the child will develop pituitary dwarfism. The hypo-secretion of growth hormone causes the child to grow too slowly. Because all body structures grow slowly, their body looks proportional; they just look like a proportionate little person and do not grow more than four feet tall.

Gigantism and Acromegaly

If the anterior pituitary gland secretes too much growth hormone during childhood, the child will develop gigantism. As you might suspect, this hyper-secretion of growth hormone during childhood causes the bones and muscles to grow too fast, and the person grows very tall and may reach a height of 8 or 9 feet. However, because all body structures grow fast, the person looks like a proportionate giant.

One thing to note is that growth hormone production peaks at puberty, but it does not stop. We also know that a person's long bones stop growing when the epiphyseal plates or growth plates fuse, typically around the onset of adulthood. So, it is possible for there to be a hyper-secretion of growth hormone during adulthood, and this results in a condition called acromegaly. Because the long bones are fused, the person does not get any taller, but the other bones, particularly those of the jaw, face, feet, and hands, will continue to grow. This condition is most likely caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland.

Sterility

Low FSH and LH secretion can cause sterility.
Anterior Pituitary Sterility

In addition to growth hormone, we also know that the anterior pituitary gland secretes hormones important to reproduction. Namely, we see that the gland produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates production of egg and sperm, and luteinizing hormone (LH) that triggers ovulation in females and stimulates testosterone production in males. If from the anterior pituitary we see a hypo-secretion of FSH and LH, it can result in sterility, which is the inability to have children. It's interesting to note that some fertility drugs will stimulate the release of FSH and LH. This can result in multiple ovulations that occur at the same time, and this can result in multiple births.

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