Pituitary Innovation and Teaching

Pituitary tumours: Types of tumours and symptoms

ACTH-producing tumours (Cushing’s disease)

ACTH-producing tumours produce too much of the hormone called “ACTH” (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and causes what is called “Cushing’s disease”.

Illustration of patient with Cushing's disease
Figure 5: Patient with Cushing's disease
Cushing’s disease is often hard to diagnose because it is very rare and often needs testing over a longer period of time to be detected. Too much of the hormone ACTH makes your body produce too much cortisol. Too much cortisol exposes your body to chronic stress and may cause the following:

Cushing’s disease can cause:

  • weight gain
  • growth of hair on the face
  • thinning of the skin
  • stretch marks
  • muscle weakness
  • osteoporosis (bone weakness)
  • easy bruising
  • poor wound healing
  • sadness or depression
  • irritability (feeling angry)
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar
  • heart disease
  • poor sleep

Cushing’s disease is usually treated with surgery, which often has good results. After surgery, if your pituitary gland now makes too little ACTH, you will have low cortisol. You will then need to take cortisol replacement until your body can begin making its own cortisol again, a process that can take six to 12 months or longer.


Page last updated: November 22, 2016