Successful treatment of the underlying condition causing hypopituitarism may lead to a complete or partial recovery of your body's normal production of pituitary hormones. Treatment with the appropriate hormones is often the first step. These drugs are considered as "replacement," rather than treatment, because the dosages are set to match the amounts that your body would normally manufacture if it didn't have a pituitary problem. Treatment may be lifelong.
Treatment for pituitary tumors may involve surgery to remove the growth. In some instances, doctors also recommend radiation treatment.
Hormone replacement medications may include:
- Corticosteroids. These drugs, such as hydrocortisone or prednisone, replace the adrenal hormones that aren't being produced because of an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) deficiency. You take them by mouth.
- Levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, others). This medication replaces deficient thyroid hormone levels caused by low or deficient TSH production.
- Sex hormones. These include testosterone in men and estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone in women. Testosterone is administered through the skin with either a patch or a gel or by injection. Female hormone replacement can be administered with pills, gels or patches.
- Growth hormone. Also called somatropin, growth hormone is taken through an injection beneath your skin. It promotes growth, thus producing more normal height in children. Adults with a growth hormone deficiency also may benefit from growth hormone replacement, but they won't grow taller.
If you've become infertile, LH and FSH (gonadotropins) can be administered by injection to stimulate ovulation in women and sperm production in men.
Monitoring and adjusting
A doctor who specializes in endocrine disorders (endocrinologist) may monitor the levels of these hormones in your blood to ensure you're getting adequate — but not excessive — amounts.
Your doctor will advise you to adjust your dosage of corticosteroids if you become seriously ill or experience major physical stress. During these times, your body would ordinarily produce extra cortisol hormone. The same kind of fine-tuning of dosage may be necessary when you have the flu, experience diarrhea or vomiting, or have surgery or dental procedures. Adjustments in dosage may also be necessary during pregnancy or with marked changes in weight. You may need periodic CT or MRI scans as well to monitor a pituitary tumor or other diseases causing the hypopituitarism.
In case of emergency
Wear a medical alert bracelet or pendant, and carry a special card, notifying others — in emergency situations, for example — that you're taking corticosteroids and other medications.
April 23, 2016
- Generalized hypopituitarism. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/pituitary-disorders/generalized-hypopituitarism. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Hypopituitarism. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.
- Gardner DG, et al. Hypothalamus and pituitary gland. In: Greenspan's Basic & Clinical Endocrinology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.
- Nippoldt, TB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 3, 2016.