Pituitary Gland

By:  Catherine Joachin

Photo Credit: www.depositphotos.com

What is the pituitary gland? 

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine organ located below the hypothalamus that releases several key hormones into the bloodstream (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Sometimes referred to as the “master gland,” it manages stress, growth, and reproduction by transmitting signals from the hypothalamus to other glands (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021).

Functions of the pituitary gland 

As part of the endocrine system, the pituitary gland relies on a network of nerve fibers and blood vessels to interact with the hypothalamus (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021). It then uses these signals to control the endocrine glands and the body’s hormonal response to environmental factors.

The pituitary gland is made up of two major sections: the anterior pituitary and posterior pituitary lobes (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021). The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland secretes several important hormones. These include:

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the production of cortisol via the adrenal glands. This cortisol production helps regulate metabolism, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and reduces inflammation.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone promotes sperm production in males and egg development in females.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) triggers ovulation in females and testosterone production in males.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH manages metabolism, energy levels, and nervous system functioning via the production of thyroid hormones.

Growth hormone (GH), which stimulates growth in children, helps maintain muscle tone, metabolism, and influences fat distribution in adults.

Prolactin. This hormone stimulates lactation and influences fertility and sexual functions.

                                                                                                                            (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.)

In contrast, the posterior pituitary gland is involved in the release of hormones produced by the hypothalamus.

• Antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin, manages the body’s water and sodium levels. 

• Oxytocin facilitates childbirth through uterine contractions, stimulates breast milk production, and helps sperm mobility in males.

                                                                                                                                  (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.)

Through hormone release and interactions with the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland regulates several bodily functions and influences the performance of the thyroid, reproductive system organs, and adrenal glands (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).

Associated Conditions 

There are a handful of conditions related to the pituitary gland. Pituitary gland dysfunction can cause serious problems in terms of sexual development, thyroid function, growth, skin pigmentation, and adrenal function (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).

A variety of symptoms may be observed in individuals with the following pituitary disorders:

• Pituitary adenomas — Benign tumors that can disturb hormonal release and cause visual  disturbances by compression of the optic nerve

• Hypopituitarism — A deficiency in pituitary gland hormones

• Hyperpituitarism — An excessive secretion of pituitary gland hormones

• Empty Sella syndrome — A disorder in which the pituitary gland is shrunk or flattened,  potentially leading to impotence, lower sex drive, and irregular menstruation.

• Cushing’s syndrome — Excess blood cortisol levels, which can cause weight gain

• Diabetes insipidus — Insufficient ADH production, which is linked to poor water retention.

• Acromegaly— An excessive growth hormone production which can trigger irregular bone and  tissue development

                                                                          (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.; Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2022)

Pituitary Gland and Epilepsy 

The relationship between the pituitary gland and epilepsy is poorly documented. Very few articles address this topic, and a significant portion of relevant articles are over 15 years old,  some dating as far back as the 1920s.

A study performed by Eren, and colleagues (2022) argued that the pituitary gland of patients with epilepsy had a lower width, a characteristic that negatively correlated with seizure frequency. This finding underlines a complex hormonal relationship between the structural features of the pituitary gland and epilepsy (Eren et al., 2022).

Further links with epilepsy have been drawn due to a condition known as hyponatremia, a decrease in blood sodium levels capable of leading to seizures or coma. Evidence suggests that surgical resections targeted at pituitary adenomas are associated with a mild trend toward hyponatremia; however, this is not linked to an increased incidence of seizure activity  (Johnson, Pouratian & Garrett, 2021).


The incidence of hyponatremic seizures is sporadic and benign, as complications following surgical intervention tend to resolve themselves without the need for invasive treatment measures (Johnson et al., 2021). In cases of pituitary gland dysfunction, hormonal replacement therapy is cited as an alternative to normal hormone production/secretion (Massachusetts  General Hospital, n.d.).


The pituitary gland is an endocrine gland that releases hormones that maintain key bodily functions and oversee the functioning of many body parts. Little is known about the pituitary gland’s relationship with epilepsy; however, future studies focused on addressing the role of hormones in seizure genesis could pave the way for a greater understanding of this domain.


Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Pituitary Gland. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/ body/21459-pituitary-gland  

Eren, F., Ozguncu, C., & Ekmekci, A. H. (2022). The Relationship Between Pituitary Gland  Dimensions, Thyroid Functions, and Seizure Activity in Patients with Epilepsy. Archives of  Epilepsy, 28(1), 39–42. https://doi.org/10.54614/ArchEpilepsy.2022.93585

Massachusetts General Hospital. (n.d.) Pituitary Tumor Treatment Options. Massachusetts  General Hospital. https://www.massgeneral.org/neurosurgery/treatments-and-services/pituitary tumor-treatments

Johnson, M., Pouratian, N., & Garrett, M. (2021). An evidence-based approach to monitoring serum sodium in patients following non-pituitary cerebral neoplasm resection. Interdisciplinary  Neurosurgery: Advanced Techniques and Case Management, 25, 101166-. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.inat.2021.101166

Johns Hopkins Medicine (2021). Pituitary Gland. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https:// www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/the-pituitary-gland

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022). Disorders of the Pituitary Gland. Johns Hopkins Medicine.  https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/disorders-of-the-pituitary gland

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