In the following article, the head of the Queens Clinic, Dr. Ahmed Ismail explains what is the pituitary gland, its impact on the ability of men and women to have children, and the partial or total blindness that it may cause if it has tumours.

 

What is the pituitary gland?
The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain in the skull, just above the area between the eyebrows. Its size is equivalent to a pea, and its functions are related to a number of body activities, including its vital role in regulating the relationship with the ovary, as it secretes hormones that give a signal to the ovary to function. When the ovary begins to function, the pituitary gland stops secreting these hormones, meaning that the function between them is mutually compatible.

What is the relationship of the pituitary gland to infertility in women and men?
The pituitary gland secretes a group of hormones that have important functions for the body, including the hormone prolactin, which stimulates the breasts to produce milk after childbirth. In some cases, a significant rise in the proportion of this hormone may appear during examination and analysis, for physiological (functional) or pathological reasons. The patient and the specialist doctor must take the next step to identify the cause of this increase and take the necessary treatments.

What are the symptoms of high levels of this hormone?
These symptoms include the inability of a man or woman to have children, irregular menstruation, or milk coming out of a woman’s breasts even though she is not pregnant. The same applies to a man whose nipple may secrete milk when pressed. There are other symptoms, such as partial blindness, and the inability to see from the right, left or middle side. In this context, the patient may go to the ophthalmologist, the neurologist, the gynaecologist or the infertility doctor, which results in the lack of attention given to the rise in the level, and herein lies the danger.

What kind of danger does the rise in this hormone cause?

The rise in this hormone may cause infertility and loss of vision. A man and a woman should immediately go to a gynaecologist or an endocrinologist, as soon as one or more of the symptoms of a rise in the hormone prolactin appear, in order to identify the real causes of this rise. If the doctor finds that the cause is due to a tumour in the cells that produce this hormone, or he notices an enlargement of the pituitary gland, he must develop an immediate plan for treatment, because otherwise, it may lead to a complete loss of vision. Unfortunately, this is what happened a while ago, when a great Egyptian director was blinded, due to the swelling of the pituitary gland, and the physician’s lack of knowledge of this matter and the treatment of the causes led to this unfortunate result!

What are the causes of tumours that affect the pituitary gland?
This tumour, like all tumours that affect the body, is a tumour that a person has nothing to do with its formation, but it is necessary to raise awareness of its danger. In this context, the attending physician should not diagnose this rise in the proportion of the prolactin hormone and stop at this point, or give treatments for drying up milk in the breast, for example, or for partial blindness, without knowing the roots of the problem and its real causes. If the tumour in the pituitary gland is left without early treatment, it will persist and increase in size, and will press on the optic nerve, causing partial or total blindness and complete vision loss!

How is it diagnosed?
When the level of the hormone prolactin is significantly high, it is necessary to do an X-ray and a CT scan of the skull, in order to diagnose the presence of a tumour in the cells of the pituitary gland. After that, the patient must resort to a doctor who specializes in neurosurgery for immediate treatment, otherwise, this tumour can press on the optic nerve and the patient will gradually lose sight. When the tumour reaches a certain size, the patient may lose sight completely! The patient who complains of partial blindness should go to the endocrinologist without delay, and if there is a rise in the hormone prolactin, it is necessary to conduct the required examinations and x-rays. If it is found that the tumour is in the pituitary gland, it is necessary to refer to a neurosurgeon, in order to deal with the tumour surgically, or by using certain types of atomic rays in order to spare the patient a state of blindness, as well as cases of infertility if possible.