Pituitary Innovation and Teaching
Psychosocial effects of pituitary disease on men and women
Speaker: Martine Andrews, nurse practitioner
What is a pituitary gland?
The pituitary gland is the size of a pea in the brain. It is commonly referred to as the master gland because it controls other glands in the body, such as the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, and the testes. The pituitary gland is involved in growth, metabolism, and the balance of water in our bodies.
What is a pituitary tumour?
If the pituitary gland is affected by some disease (a tumour, an hemorrhage), it will interfere with the pituitary function and cause wisespread hormonal imbalance that would affect many physical and psychological functions in the body.
What are the symptoms?
Hormonal imbalance is essential for psychological well-being. One of the more common sym,ptoms that we see in our patients is depression, moodiness, nervousness, and reduced sex drive or libido; although lack of energy and vitality may make it difficult for our patients to carry out day-to-day responsibilities. Memory can be affected in certain pituitary disease. Pituitary disease can lead to sexual dysfunction because of reduced level of sex hormones in men and women. This loss of interest in sex or decreased libido may cause stress in relationships.
Women affected by a pituitary disease may also suffer from menstrual cycle absence or irregularities. Women may be unable to become pregnant.
Women and men are often asking when it is safe to resume sexual activity after pituitary surgery. All our patients are encouraged to raise their concerns with their health care team.
Acromegaly is another acquired disorder related to excessive production of growth hormone (GH) and characterized by progressive somatic disfigurement (mainly involving the face and extremities) and systemic manifestations. It is most often diagnosed in middle-aged adults (average age 40 years, men and women equally affected). Due to insidious onset and slow progression, acromegaly is often diagnosed for to more than ten years after its onset. The main clinical features are broadened extremities (hands and feet), widened thickened and stubby fingers, and thickened soft tissue. The facial aspect is characteristic and includes a widened and thickened nose, prominent cheekbones, forehead bulges, thick lips and marked facial lines. The forehead and overlying skin is thickened, sometime leading to frontal bossing. The disease also has rheumatologic, cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic consequences which determine its prognosis.
The good news is that pituitary disorders are now diagnosed at an earlier stage and better treatments are available.
What can you do to improve your mental health?
Talking to people that care for you can be very helpful. Share your thoughts and feeling with them, and explain to them what you are going through – It can be very therapeutic. Professional therapists and other patients can offer coping strategies. Keep a journal and diary documenting how you feel before and after surgery so you can see how improvements are being made over time.
You can also ask your doctor about the availability of patient support groups and counselors, or you can call a help hotline when you need to talk to someone more urgently. For example, Telehealth Ontario provides a free and confidential telephone service that allows you to speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Antidepressant medications may be required in some instances, and can be very effective at reducing depressive symptoms.
Your health care team is here to support you; and we wish you the best.
Page last updated: June 3, 2016