Prolactinoma (Pituitary Tumor)

  • Medical Author:

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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Where is the pituitary gland located?

The pituitary gland is located in the middle of the head in a bony box that looks like a saddle and is called the sella turcica. Since the pituitary is in such a tight space, any abnormal growth can result in signs and symptoms secondary to compression of the gland. The nerves for the eyes pass directly above the pituitary gland.

Picture of the Pituitary Gland
Picture of the Pituitary Gland

What problems are caused by a pituitary tumor?

Pituitary tumors may impair or cause an increase in the production of one or more pituitary hormones. The lesion itself can damage surrounding normal tissue and thereby reduce the function of the pituitary gland (a condition called hypopituitarism).

Enlargement of the pituitary gland can also cause local symptoms, such as headaches (because of increased pressure if the fluid system bathing the brain is blocked or stimulated), or visual disturbances (because of the proximity of the pituitary gland to the optic nerves).

How common is a prolactinoma?

Prolactinoma is one of the common type of pituitary tumors. Routine autopsy (postmortem) studies have shown that about a quarter of the U.S. population have small pituitary tumors. About 40% of these pituitary tumors produce prolactin, but most are not considered clinically significant because they cause no symptoms or problems. Clinically significant pituitary tumors affect the health of approximately 14 out of 100,000 people (or 1 in about 7,000 people).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2015

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