How does panhypopituitarism affect the body

If you consider the many different hormones with their different effects that the pituitary gland releases (see info box), it quickly becomes clear that an underfunction of the pituitary gland brings with it very different signs and symptoms. Depending on which of the hormones are no longer released in sufficient quantities.

Some signs have already been mentioned above. In the following you will find the most important systematically described for the various messenger substances of the pituitary gland.

Some of the signs are also dependent on age: This concerns, for example, a failure of the somatropin, the growth hormone. Such a failure is of course mainly noticeable in the growth phase, i.e. before the end of puberty, as long as the growth in length continues.

Somatropin deficiency

A sign of the growth hormone deficiency in children or adolescents is reduced length growth, i.e. short stature compared to their peers. Tooth growth can also be delayed.

Somatropin increases the blood sugar level and has a lipolytic effect on the fat cells, i.e. it breaks down fat. If this fat-reducing effect is missing because the messenger substance is not sufficiently available, both children and adolescents as well as adults can experience frequent hypoglycaemia and the formation of fat deposits (especially on the stomach). In adults, muscle mass also decreases. Patients also often report a severe lack of drive, up to and including a depressive mood.

Deficiency of the gonadotropins LH and FSH

If there is a deficiency in these sexual messengers LH and FSH during childhood, sexual maturation does not take place. If the deficiency only occurs in adolescents during puberty, male adolescents often develop undescended testicles (testicles do not slip out of the abdominal cavity into the scrotum), while female adolescents do not have menstrual bleeding.

If this deficiency occurs in adulthood, when the development of sexual characteristics is complete, the following signs can be found in both sexes:

  • Decrease or loss of libido
  • Pubic hair loss
  • infertility
  • Muscle mass decreases, fat mass increases
  • Bone stability decreases (osteoporosis)
  • possibly anemia
  • possibly depressive moods

In men, the testicles often shrink and can no longer produce sperm. Menstrual cycle disorders (rare or absent menstrual bleeding) have been observed in women.

Thyrotropin (TSH) deficiency

A deficiency in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone, thyroid = thyroid gland) leads to a reduction in all body functions. Read more under Hypothyroidism.

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) Deficiency

If the body lacks ACTH, the main result is an underfunction of the adrenal cortex, which is then no longer able to provide enough of the vital glucocorticoids. This can lead to extremely dangerous situations, as described above under the heading "Pituitary Coma".

Overall, the following signs or complaints occur:

  • pale skin (so-called alabaster skin)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • severe tiredness
  • Inefficiency
  • due to decreased blood pressure: dizziness (especially when standing up), fainting spells. possibly confusion.
  • depressive mood

Vasopressin deficiency

Vasopressin (or ADH - antidiuretic hormone) primarily regulates our water balance. Therefore, a deficiency leads to signs such as greatly increased urn discharge, which is accompanied by great thirst. This can even go so far that sleep is severely disturbed.

This can be dangerous for babies, toddlers and old people who do not adequately compensate for the high loss of fluid and thus dry out. This can have serious consequences:

  • dry mucous membranes (making them more susceptible to pathogens)
  • constipation
  • low blood pressure
  • Increase in the level of sodium in the blood

This "thickening" of the blood due to too much sodium can lead to seizures or confusion, and even to a coma!

Complete failure (panhypopituitarism)

If the functions of the pituitary gland fail completely, then, so to speak, a collection of the signs described above. Here is an overview of the most important:

  • Loss of drive and indifference
  • great tiredness
  • low blood pressure
  • Tendency to hypoglycaemia
  • Skin cool and dry (possibly "parchment skin")
  • pale skin due to insufficient pigment formation (easily recognizable e.g. on the nipples)
  • Little to no pubic and armpit hair, no more beard growth