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A pituitary tumor is a growth on the pituitary gland, which is an endocrine gland in the brain. The job of the pituitary gland is to regulate the release of hormones, so a tumor on this gland can cause a variety of symptoms that indicate a hormone imbalance. This can result in certain conditions, such as Cushing's syndrome, which can make patients rounder, and acromegaly, which makes several features on the body larger. Other patients experience different symptoms of a pituitary tumor, such as weight loss and rapid heartbeat caused by hyperthyroidism, or a change in sex hormones that results in larger breasts in men and irregular menstruation in women. Some symptoms of a pituitary tumor are caused by pressure rather than hormonal changes, so patients might notice a headache, nausea and vision loss, to name a few pressure-related effects.
One of the symptoms of a pituitary tumor is an increase in cortisol, which leads to Cushing's syndrome. The symptoms of this condition include excess fat around the midsection, a round face, and a hump on the back. The skin is also affected, becoming thinner and acquiring both bruises and stretch marks. Some patients note other symptoms of a pituitary tumor, such as larger hands, feet and facial features, as well as excessive sweating and weakened muscles. These symptoms indicate acromegaly, because some tumors release excessive amounts of growth hormone.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that often results in unexplained weight loss, rapid heartbeat and irritability. It is the result of an overactive thyroid gland, which may be caused by a pituitary tumor stimulating the thyroid gland excessively. Some tumors secrete prolactin, resulting in an imbalance of sex hormones. Men with this kind of tumor may experience a reduction in body hair, enlarged breast tissue and a lower libido. Women may notice menstrual periods that are either suddenly irregular or missing altogether, as well as nipple discharge that contains breast milk.
Many tumors also cause pressure-related symptoms as they grow. For example, fatigue, headaches and loss of vision may result from a pituitary tumor. Some patients also experience nausea, vomiting and constipation, often accompanied by either weight gain or weight loss. Other pressure-related symptoms of a pituitary tumor include low blood pressure and intolerance of cold temperatures. These symptoms tend to gradually get worse as the tumor becomes larger, though they might seem to appear overnight in some patients.