What are the symptoms of pituitary tumors?

Symptoms of Functioning Tumors

The symptoms of functioning tumors depend on the particular hormone the tumor is overproducing.1

A pituitary tumor that produces too much prolactin may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Less frequent or no menstrual periods or menstrual periods with a very light flow
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Impotence in men
  • Lower sex drive
  • The flow of breast milk in a woman who is not pregnant or breastfeeding

A pituitary tumor that produces too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Weight gain reflected in the face, neck, and trunk of the body, but thin arms and legs
  • A lump of fat on the back of the neck
  • Thin skin that may include purple or pink stretch marks on the chest or abdomen
  • Easy bruising
  • Growth of fine hair on the face, upper back, or arms
  • Bones that break easily
  • Anxiety, irritability, depression
  • Growth deceleration with weight gain in children
  • Irregular menses

A pituitary tumor that produces too much growth hormone may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • In adults, growth of the bones in the face, hands, and feet
  • In children, excessive growth of the whole body
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Joint pain
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Extreme dislike of or concern about one or more parts of the body

A pituitary tumor that produces too much TSH (through high T4) may cause:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Sweating

Nonfunctioning tumors press on or damage the pituitary and prevent it from secreting enough hormones. If there is too little of a particular hormone, the gland or organ it normally controls will not function correctly. Symptoms of nonfunctioning pituitary tumors are1:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Loss of body hair
  • In women, less frequent menstrual periods or no periods at all, or no milk from the breasts
  • In men, loss of facial hair, growth of breast tissue, and impotence
  • In women and men, lower sex drive
  • In children, slowed growth and sexual development

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Seizure
  • Runny or drippy nose


  1. National Cancer Institute. (2011). Pituitary tumors treatment (PDQ). Retrieved February 28, 2012, from https://www.cancer.gov/types/pituitary/patient/pituitary-treatment-pdq#section/all
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