Hypopituitarism is a condition in which the pituitary gland in the brain is not working properly. Normally, the pituitary gland produces hormones some of which affect growth, blood pressure, blood sugar and other body processes. Effects of hypopituitarism may be gradual, or sudden and dramatic.
Hypopituitarism, in children, is often caused by a benign (noncancerous) pituitary tumor, an injury, an autoimmune process, or an infection. Often, no exact cause can be determined.
Symptoms vary depending on what hormones are insufficiently produced from the pituitary gland. The symptoms of hypopituitarism may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Common symptoms include:
Small penis in males
Very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Slowed growth and short stature
Slowed sexual development
Prolonged jaundice at birth
Weight loss or weight gain
Sensitivity to cold
The symptoms of several underactive glands may help your child's doctor diagnose hypopituitarism. In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for hypopituitarism may include:
Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
Blood tests. Blood tests are used to measure hormone levels.
Bone X-rays of the hand. X-rays of the left hand and wrist will determine bone age, which is often delayed compared with chronologic age in children with hypopituitarism..
Specific treatment for hypopituitarism will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Treatment of hypopituitarism depends on its cause. The goal of treatment is to restore the pituitary gland to normal function, producing normal levels of hormones. Treatment may include specific hormone replacement therapy, surgical tumor removal, and/or radiation therapy.