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Hypopituitarism in Children

What is hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism  is a condition in which the pituitary gland in the brain is not working properly. Normally, the pituitary gland  produces hormones some of which affect growth, blood pressure, blood sugar and other body processes. Effects of hypopituitarism may be gradual, or sudden and dramatic.

What causes hypopituitarism?

Hypopituitarism, in children, is often caused by a benign (noncancerous) pituitary tumor, an injury, an autoimmune process, or an infection. Often, no exact cause can be determined.

What are the symptoms of hypopituitarism?

Symptoms vary depending on what hormones are insufficiently produced from the pituitary gland. The symptoms of hypopituitarism may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Common symptoms include:

  • Small penis in males

  • Very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • Slowed growth and short stature

  • Slowed sexual development

  • Prolonged jaundice at birth

  • Poor appetite

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Sensitivity to cold

  • Facial puffiness

How is hypopituitarism diagnosed?

The symptoms of several underactive glands may help your child's doctor diagnose hypopituitarism. In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for hypopituitarism may include:

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Blood tests. Blood tests are used to measure hormone levels.

  • Bone X-rays of the hand.  X-rays of the left hand and wrist will determine bone age, which is often delayed compared with chronologic age in children with hypopituitarism..

Treatment for hypopituitarism

Specific treatment for hypopituitarism will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment of hypopituitarism depends on its cause. The goal of treatment is to restore the pituitary gland to normal function, producing normal levels of hormones. Treatment may include specific hormone replacement therapy, surgical tumor removal, and/or radiation therapy.

Last Reviewed Date: 07/29/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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