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Clinical manifestations of hypopituitarism

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

INTRODUCTION

The presentation of hypopituitarism can be considered as the presentation of deficiency of each anterior pituitary hormone. The presentations of patients with deficiencies of those hormones that control target glands are often similar to the presentations of patients with primary deficiencies of the target gland hormones they control, with some notable exceptions.

An overview of the clinical manifestations in patients with hypopituitarism will be provided here. The causes, diagnosis, and treatment of hypopituitarism are reviewed separately. (See "Diagnostic testing for hypopituitarism" and "Treatment of hypopituitarism".)

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

Damage to the anterior pituitary can occur suddenly or slowly, can be mild or severe, and can affect the secretion of one, several, or all of its hormones. As a result, the clinical presentation of anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies varies, depending upon the following factors (see "Causes of hypopituitarism"):

The rapidity with which a disease affects anterior pituitary cells. Some diseases, such as pituitary apoplexy, develop rapidly, causing sudden impairment of corticotropin (ACTH) secretion and, consequently, sudden onset of symptoms of cortisol deficiency. Other insults, such as radiation therapy to the pituitary or hypothalamus, usually act slowly, causing symptoms many months or, more likely, years later.

The severity of the hormonal deficiency. Complete ACTH and cortisol deficiency, as an example, can cause symptoms under basal circumstances, while partial ACTH deficiency may cause symptoms only during times of physical stress.

        
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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 08, 2016.
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