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What Is an Enlarged Pituitary Gland?

An MRI scan of the brain can help in diagnosing an enlarged pituitary gland.
An enlarged pituitary gland can cause multiple symptoms.
The pituitary gland can interfere with thyroid functioning.
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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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The pituitary gland regulates hormones throughout the body. When this gland is larger than usual, it can cause multiple symptoms throughout the body. Several medical conditions can be responsible for the problem, and once it is suspected, a patient is typically referred to an endocrinologist for evaluation and treatment. Treatments can include anything from medication to surgery.

Symptoms of an enlarged gland include frequent headaches, disturbances in vision, excessive sweating, and blood pressure irregularities. In addition, the pituitary gland can interfere with thyroid functioning. Drooping eyelids, nausea, and vomiting are also indicators of an enlarged pituitary gland.

Endocrinologists are usually called in to diagnose problems with the pituitary gland. A primary care physician will usually refer the patient to the specialist when an enlarged gland is suspected. Diagnosis is made through blood testing, medical history, symptom charting, and an MRI scan or CT scan of the brain. Once an enlarged gland is discovered, the search for a cause and treatment begins.

Treating an enlarged pituitary gland involves treating the cause. If there is a tumor in the gland, surgical removal or radiation treatments are in order. If there is bleeding into the gland, the cause must be located and the bleeding stopped. Diseases causing the gland to enlarge must be treated, which will typically reduce the gland. If the gland is enlarged due to inadequate or overproduction of hormones, hormone therapy is prescribed.

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The risks of not treating an enlarged pituitary gland can be serious. If there are vision disturbances due to the gland pressing on the optic nerves, going blind is possible. For hormone issues, the heart, brain, and nervous system can all become adversely affected. Anytime there is bleeding in the brain, including bleeding into the pituitary gland, life-threatening consequences can occur. While an enlarged gland is almost always due to an underlying cause, the consequences of not treating the condition can be serious.

Little can be done to prevent a pituitary gland from becoming enlarged. Once it does occur, treatment of the underlying cause will normally reduce the gland to its original size. Following treatment, the prognosis is excellent in the majority of cases.

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