Caregivers Month

What is the Pituitary Gland?

The pituitary gland is a small bean-shaped gland located at the base of the brain in a bony structure called the sella turcica. The gland is regulated by a region of the brain called the hypothalamus from which it hangs by a thin vascular and neural connection called the pituitary stalk or infundibulum. Directly above the pituitary are the crossing fibers of the optic nerves called the optic chiasm. On either side of the pituitary is a venous channel called the cavernous sinus through which run the large carotid arteries that carry blood to the brain and important nerves that control eye movement and facial sensation.

Despite its small size, the pituitary gland is often called the master gland because it produces hormones that influence nearly every part of the body. The pituitary controls growth, reproduction, lactation, thyroid and adrenal metabolism, as well as salt and water balance. Pituitary hormones are also implicated in emotional wellbeing. Because of the close proximity of the pituitary to other intracranial nerves and blood vessels and the vital hormonal control the gland provides, disorders of the pituitary can cause a wide range of hormonal and neurological symptoms.

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