Hypopituitarism may be the result of inherited disorders, but more often it's acquired. Hypopituitarism frequently is triggered by a tumor of the pituitary gland. As a pituitary tumor increases in size, it can compress and damage pituitary tissue, interfering with hormone production. A tumor can also compress the optic nerves, causing visual disturbances.

The cause of hypopituitarism can also be other diseases and events that damage the pituitary, such as:

  • Head injuries
  • Brain or pituitary tumors
  • Brain surgery
  • Radiation treatment
  • Autoimmune inflammation (hypophysitis)
  • Stroke
  • Infections of the brain, such as meningitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Infiltrative diseases, such as sarcoidosis, which is an inflammatory disease occurring in various organs; histiocytosis X, in which abnormal cells cause scarring in numerous parts of the body, such as the lungs and bones; and hemochromatosis, which causes excess iron deposition in the liver and other tissues
  • Severe loss of blood during childbirth, which may cause damage to the front part of the pituitary gland (Sheehan syndrome or postpartum pituitary necrosis)
  • Genetic mutations resulting in impaired pituitary hormone production

Diseases of the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain situated just above the pituitary, also can cause hypopituitarism. The hypothalamus produces hormones of its own that directly affect the activity of the pituitary.

In some cases, the cause of hypopituitarism is unknown.

May. 17, 2013

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