Illustration showing the pea-size pituitary gland behind the eyes in the center of the brain

Sometimes called the master gland, the pituitary gland is about the size of a pea and located in the center of the brain behind the nose and eyes.

Because the pituitary gland regulates the hormones production, pituitary disease disrupts hormonal function, triggering a wide range of symptoms and conditions.

The far-reaching effects of pituitary disease mean that it can take a diverse team of specialists to treat it.

The University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus's pituitary specialists are part of a multi-disciplinary center that diagnoses, evaluates and treats pituitary tumors and other disorders of the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system.

Our multi-specialty team of specialists from neurosurgery, neurology, radiology and radiation oncology work together to offer you a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan.

Pituitary Disorders We Treat

Because the hormones that the pituitary gland controls affect everything from growth to sexual function, a pituitary malfunction can cause an array of conditions. Some of the most common ones we see include:

Pituitary Tumors

Depending on its size and location, a pituitary tumor can affect nearly any of the pituitary's functions, causing:

  • Headaches
  • Change in vision
  • Changes in menstruation in women
  • Erectile dysfunction or decreased libido in men
  • Changes in thyroid hormone, which can affect weight, energy levels, hair and skin
  • Decreases in cortisol, which can cause weight loss, dizziness, tiredness, low blood pressure and nausea
  • increased cortisol leading to weight gain, muscle weakness, bruising and elevated blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Breast discomfort or discharge
  • Fatigue, change in ring or shoe size

Diagnosis of a pituitary tumor involves blood tests, imaging, such as MRI and CT, and visual field testing.

Treatment ranges from monitoring to medications, surgery or in rare cases, radiation therapy.

Acromegaly

When the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone in adulthood it causes acromegaly. Its symptoms include:

  • Hands and feet become larger and swollen — changes in ring or shoe size
  • Lips, nose and tongue become larger
  • Facial changes — brow and lower jaw jut out, bridge of the nose enlarges and space between teeth increases
  • Skin becomes thick, coarse and oily
  • Sweating and skin odor increase
  • Voice becomes deeper
  • Skin tags — small, usually flesh-colored growths of skin that have a raised surface—may get larger or darker

Diagnosis of acromegaly involves blood tests and imaging, such as MRI and CT.

Treatment may include medications, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency

If your pituitary gland decreases its production of growth hormone in adulthood, symptoms could include:

  • More body fat and less muscle
  • Anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation
  • Decreased sexual function and interest
  • Fatigue
  • Greater sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Less strength and stamina
  • Reduced bone density and a tendency to have more bone fractures as they get older
  • Changes in the make-up of the blood cholesterol

Diagnosis is made using an insulin tolerance test (ITT).

Treatment involves replacing the growth hormones with injection. Every four to eight weeks, the patient will return to the doctor for monitoring and a blood test to help the doctor decided if more hormone is needed or less.

Diabetes Insipidus

Although similar in name to the more typical diabetes mellitus, diabetes Insipidus is a different disease. It is an imbalance of fluids in the body. Its symptoms are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Large amounts of urination

Diagnosis is made through medical and family history, physical exam, urine and blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluid deprivation test.

Treatment is usually medications.

Cushing Disease

When there is too much of the hormone cortisol — whether because of overproduction by the body or medications — Cushing disease can occur. The condition can in turn cause result in high blood pressure, bone loss and sometimes type 2 diabetes.

Its symptoms include:

Weight gain with fatty tissue around the midsection,, in the face and between the shoulders

  • Pink or purple stretch marks
  • Bruising easily
  • Slow healing
  • Acne

Diagnosis is made through medical and family history, physical exam, urine and blood tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment ranges from surgery and radiation to medications. 

Pituitary Specialists

Kashif M. Munir, MD

Kashif M. Munir, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Medical Director, UM Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology

Jeffrey Myles Kroopnick, MD

Jeffrey Myles Kroopnick, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Elizabeth Mary Lamos, MD

Elizabeth Mary Lamos, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Graeme F. Woodworth, MD, FACS

Graeme F. Woodworth, MD, FACS

Professor of Neurosurgery