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Causes of hypopituitarism

Peter J Snyder, MD
Section Editor
David S Cooper, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Martin, MD


Hypopituitarism refers to decreased secretion of pituitary hormones, which can result from diseases of the pituitary gland or from diseases of the hypothalamus. These cause diminished secretion of hypothalamic-releasing hormones, thereby reducing secretion of the corresponding pituitary hormones (table 1).

The clinical manifestations of hypopituitarism depend upon the cause as well as the type and degree of hormonal insufficiency. Patients may be asymptomatic or present with symptoms related to hormone deficiency or a mass lesion, or nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue.

The causes of hypopituitarism will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations and treatment of hypopituitarism are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations of hypopituitarism" and "Treatment of hypopituitarism".)


In a study that comprised two cross-sectional surveys (from 1992 and 1999) of over 146,000 adults in northern Spain, the prevalence of hypopituitarism was 29 of 100,000 in the first survey and 45.5 of 100,000 in the second [1]. A longitudinal survey was also performed; the average annual incidence of hypopituitarism was 4.2 cases of 100,000 (similar for men and women). In the second survey (which included most cases registered in the first survey), the causes of hypopituitarism included pituitary tumor (61 percent), nonpituitary tumor (9 percent), and a nontumor cause (30 percent).

A study of 773 adults with hypopituitarism found the following distribution of etiologies [2]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 04, 2017.
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