Pituitary gland disorders are a result of a malfunction of the pituitary gland, a tiny but vital gland that releases the hormones responsible for directing many other glands and body processes. A pituitary gland disorder occurs when the pituitary gland produces either too much or too little of a particular hormone.
The pituitary gland is responsible for producing growth hormone, necessary for growth in children, maintenance of body tissues in adults, and distribution of fat. It also produces a hormone known as ACTH that causes the adrenal gland to release cortisol, a hormone that signals the body to react to stress and affects blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
A pituitary-released hormone known as TSH is responsible for regulating the thyroid gland, which in turn regulates the body’s metabolism, energy, nervous system, and more. Several other hormones released by the pituitary gland are responsible for proper levels of testosterone, estrogen, and reproductive system components.
The most common cause for a pituitary gland disorder is the development of tumors in the gland. These tumors are not to be associated with cancer; they are not made up of cancer cells. However, they do significantly affect the hormone-releasing functions of the pituitary gland.
There are two types of pituitary gland tumors. One type releases hormones, itself, resulting in too much of a particular hormone. The other type doesn’t release hormones but interferes with pituitary function merely because of its presence.
The three groups of disorders resulting from either tumors or other damage to the pituitary gland are categorized by their effect on the main function of the pituitary gland – hormone secretion. Hypersecretion occurs when too much of a particular hormone is released into the body, usually the result of a hormone-secreting tumor.
Hyposecretion, on the other hand, is the insufficient release of hormones mostly resulting from the interference of a non-secreting tumor. The third condition is related to the growth of pituitary tumors. As they grow larger, they may interfere with vision, mental function, and other body functions.
Specific types of common hyposecretion and hypersecretion are as follows: Growth Hormone Deficiency – hyposecretion of the growth hormone can affect normal growth in children and result in muscle and bone loss in adults. Hypopituitarism — a low production of many of the hormones the pituitary gland is responsible for.
Hyperprolactinemia – overproduction of prolactin, the hormone responsible for producing breast milk in women. Some more severe (and rare) types of pituitary gland disorders are: Hyposecretion of growth hormone, resulting in abnormal stature (gigantism) in children and acromegaly in adults. Diabetes insipidus – a form of diabetes caused from the lack of ADH hormone in the kidneys, resulting in poor kidney function and thirst. Cushing’s disease – caused by an over-production of cortisol, resulting in extreme obesity, skin problems, hypertension and high blood sugar.
The SSA recognizes pituitary gland disorders under its Blue Book listing of endocrine system impairments. However, their classification has changed. Since pituitary gland disorders, caused by the decreased or increased production of specific hormones that affect specific body systems, have such a wide range of symptoms, they are grouped under the specific disabling condition caused by a particular hormone imbalance.
For instance, if a person is suffering from diabetes insipidus, known to create hydration issues, they would be evaluated under dehydration, a genitourinary problem, in section 6 of the Blue Book. A person with this pituitary gland disorder would have to meet the specific criteria for the symptoms listed under that condition.
A growth hormone deficiency in an adult, as another example, would be evaluated under the specific body system it affects, which would mostly be the musculoskeletal system. Growth impairment is listed as a specific category for children, however. A child with a pituitary gland disorder resulting in either growth hormone deficiency or gigantism would be evaluated by the criteria in this section.
As with all disability claims, you will be required to prove that your disability not only meets the medical criteria under the body system affected by your pituitary gland disorder, but that you are unable to perform consistent work because of it.