Symptoms of pituitary gland tumours

Signs and symptoms of pituitary gland tumours often appear as the tumour grows and when it makes too many hormones. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as pituitary gland tumours.

The signs or symptoms of pituitary gland tumours may vary depending on:

  • if the tumour is pressing on nearby areas, such as nerves or parts of the brain
  • if the tumour is pressing on parts of the pituitary gland or damaging the tissue of the pituitary gland
  • if the tumour is making too many hormones (functioning) or not (non-functioning)
  • which hormones are being made in large amounts

Symptoms of growing tumours

As a pituitary gland tumour grows, it can press on nearby areas and cause symptoms. A tumour can also affect how well the pituitary gland works and cause lower levels of hormones than normal. The signs or symptoms of pituitary gland tumours may include:

  • vision problems, such as blurred vision or loss of side vision (peripheral vision)
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • numbness or pain in the face
  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • extreme thirst and urinating often (called diabetes insipidus)

Symptoms of functioning tumours

Most pituitary gland tumours make too much of certain hormones. These tumours are referred to as functioning. Tumours that do not make extra hormones are called non-functioning.

Prolactin-producing tumours may have these signs or symptoms:

  • menstrual periods stop (called amenorrhea)
  • making breast milk without being pregnant or giving birth
  • decreased interest in sex (libido)
  • erectile dysfunction
  • breast growth in men

Growth hormone–producing tumours can cause the following signs or symptoms:

  • in adults, increased growth of the skull, bones of the face, jaw, hands and feet (called acromegaly)
  • in children, very fast growth and becoming very tall (called gigantism)
  • joint pain
  • high blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • increased sweating
  • increased growth of body hair

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)–producing tumours cause too much cortisol in the body. This leads to a group of symptoms called Cushing disease. The signs or symptoms of Cushing disease include:

  • weight gain
  • a red, round and full face
  • muscle weakness
  • increased hair growth on the face and body
  • a buildup of fat between the shoulders or above the collar bone
  • purple lines on the skin
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • changes in mood and behaviour

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)–producing tumours can cause an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) with symptoms such as:

  • nervousness
  • anxiety
  • feeling shaky
  • sleep problems
  • increased appetite
  • weight loss
  • feeling hot
  • frequent bowel movements
  • a rapid or irregular heartbeat

Gonadotropin-producing tumours usually don’t make enough hormones to cause symptoms. But they may cause:

  • irregular menstrual periods
  • infertility
  • in men, less interest in sex

Expert review and references

Medical disclaimer

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