Clinical and Mental Health Challenges to their Diagnosis and Treatment
Continuing education: this learning program does NOT carry continuing education credits.
So, what is the pituitary gland and what is a pituitary disorder? According to the Pituitary Network, the pituitary gland is called the "Master Gland” of the endocrine system because it controls the functions of all the other endocrine glands. From its position above the rest of the body, it sends signals to the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, directing them to produce thyroid hormone, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and many more. These hormones have dramatic effects on metabolism, blood pressure, sexuality, reproduction, and other vital body functions. This "Master Gland" role makes the pituitary gland quite important, despite its small size.
It is largely unknown that problems with the pituitary gland can cause not only physical problems, but also mental health issues that impact individuals as well as families. Physicians have been trained that pituitary tumors are rare, and mental health professionals have virtually no training in their identification and treatment. At least until recently.
Pituitary and other hormonal disorders encompass a wide range of symptoms that may appear months or years prior to proper medical diagnosis. Pituitary patients are often the first to recognize that something may be wrong when they find their sexual and/or mental health deteriorating. Symptoms commonly thought of as purely psychological in nature, but common in pituitary disorders, include major depression, suicide, anxiety, weight gain/loss, sexual dysfunction, anger and rage, cognitive disturbances, and more. Other symptoms can have a mental health component. For example, the effects of infertility or loss of libido can impact a couple’s relationship and stability. Lethargy, apathy, and mental slowness all wreak havoc with the ability to function fully in work, family and social environments. Menstrual irregularities and pain can cause losses in work or school productivity. Amenorrhea (absence of menses), especially when accompanied with weight loss, can be mistakenly diagnosed as anorexia nervosa.
Understanding the impact disorders of the pituitary is essential for healthcare professionals to understand so that patients affected can obtain a complete and correct diagnosis, as well as appropriate treatment.
- Review the role and function of the pituitary gland.
- Discuss abnormalities that can occur as a result of tumors or pituitary disorders.
- Discuss the methods used to diagnosis and accurately treat pituitary disorders.
- Learn about resource that can be used when a pituitary disorder is suspected to find providers centers of excellence.
Linda M. Rio, M.A., MFT
Linda Rio is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in practice over twenty-four years and currently serves the Pituitary Network Association (PNA) as Director of Professional and Public Education. She has been an invited speaker for national, state, and local conferences, graduate and post-graduate educational institutions and others including: The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), The Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA), and The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT). Linda is co-editor and contributor to Pituitary Disorders: Diagnosis and Management, Wiley-Blackwell (in press), as well as the upcoming revision of The Pituitary Patient’s Resource Guide (Pituitary Network Association).
Jessica Devin, M.D.
Dr. Jessica Devin practices endocrinology in Nashville, TN. She has both a long-standing clinical and research interest in pituitary disorders. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. She subsequently completed both her internal medical residency and endocrinology fellowship at Vanderbilt, where she additionally performed post-doctoral research investigating the effect of growth hormone on cardiovascular risk. She previously was a faculty physician at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Department of Endocrine Neoplasia, where she contributed to the development of their Pituitary Tumor Program. She and her husband have since returned to Nashville, and she is looking forward to continuing her clinical and research efforts at Vanderbilt after July 1.