If you imagine the effects of a traumatic brain injury, you likely think about things like cognitive problems or even issues with motor skills. While these are common problems, other unexpected issues can result from TBIs, including problems with the pituitary gland and hormones. When you visit an orthopedic doctor in Snellville with pituitary dysfunction, don’t be surprised if they ask about any recent head injuries to identify the root cause of your symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about what pituitary dysfunction looks like and how it is related to the brain.
What Is Pituitary Dysfunction?
Your pituitary gland’s primary job is to secrete hormones, but it is sometimes known as “the master gland” because it controls multiple glands throughout the body. It is closely connected to another part of the brain, the hypothalamus, which regulates bodily functions like temperature and sleep. When the pituitary gland or its connection to the hypothalamus is damaged, it can cause problems known generally as pituitary dysfunction in response to the imbalance in hormone production.
Because multiple organs and parts of the brain that regulate hormones are clustered together, any damage to this region resulting from a traumatic brain injury can have severe effects. Symptoms may include:
- Insomnia or disrupted sleep
- Impaired cognition
- Memory loss
- Emotional disturbances
- Weight change
- Sexual dysfunction
These symptoms may develop immediately after a brain injury or appear weeks, months, or years later. Some of these symptoms will appear in a head injury even without pituitary dysfunction, making diagnosis critical.
Taking Concussions Seriously
While concussions are usually not life-threatening, they are considered traumatic brain injuries and should be treated as if they are urgent. Many of the symptoms of a concussion that seem mild can also indicate more serious damage, including to the pituitary gland, and should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. When a concussion happens in a fall, car accident, sports injury, or another manner, the brain may forcefully jolt back and forth in the skull. This is what causes damage to the brain, its tissue, and organs like the pituitary gland, which is particularly vulnerable in this scenario. In fact, there is a significant correlation between traumatic brain injuries and pituitary dysfunction, with recent studies showing as many as 15-20% of TBI patients experiencing some level of pituitary dysfunction. These issues commonly present as issues with the human growth hormone, which helps the body develop healthy bone and muscle mass, along with regulating sexual function.
If there is any chance you have a brain injury, it’s critical to seek care quickly, to at least rule out more serious problems. A doctor will be able to determine if you’ve suffered any fractures or bleeds in the brain that may require emergency treatment before moving on to determine if your injury has an impact on the rest of your brain, including the pituitary gland.
Screening for Pituitary Dysfunction
If you have suffered any sort of brain injury, it can be helpful to ask your doctor about screening for pituitary dysfunction. Even if you have not noticed symptoms, it is a good precautionary measure to take, especially since it is not always easy to spot these problems. Your doctor may ask about potential risk factors and symptoms to determine if and how they should screen.
It is very difficult to identify pituitary damage through diagnostic scans like an MRI. Instead, screening may include testing levels of 0800 cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, estradiol, and others. Depending on the severity of your injury and symptoms, you may have only some tests performed. From there, it can be determined if any hormone therapy is needed or what other treatment options would be appropriate.
If left untreated, pituitary dysfunction can turn into chronic conditions like hypothyroidism, requiring lifelong medication and treatment. Symptoms such as a loss of sexual function can also become permanent or start to impact other systems in the body.
At AICA Snellville, our specialists see car accident victims every day. Even if that isn’t how you sustained your injury, it means that we are skilled in identifying injuries early and addressing how they impact the body. If you have suffered from a brain injury or suspect you have, contact AICA Snellville today to schedule an appointment and discuss the potential of screening for pituitary dysfunction.