It’s only the size of a pea, but the pituitary gland is so important it’s often called the body’s master gland. So when it doesn’t work right, big problems arise.
Jim Pritchard knows if he doesn’t pay attention, his garden will grow out of control. The same could have happened with his health.
“If I had let it go too much longer, it could have pressed on the optic nerve and could have affected my eyesight,” Jim said.
During a routine exam, Jim's doctor detected an enlarged thyroid.
Maria Fleseriu, M.D., an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University, detailed, “There are patients that are missed for years and years because they didn’t present with very clear symptoms and nobody thought about the possibility of a pituitary tumor.”
Specialists did spot the tumor squeezing Jim's pituitary gland and sent him to surgery.
“That was quite an experience, the operation itself, because they go up through the nose, grab hold of that tumor and collapse it,” Jim explained.
Pituitary gland tumors are usually benign, but they can cause a host of problems that often show up as blurred or double vision and dizzy spells. They can develop into Cushing’s disease, or in Jim's case, an abnormal growth called acromegaly.
Dr. Fleseriu said, “Older data shows that the mortality can be increased up to four times for Cushing’s that’s not treated and for acromegaly it’s usually doubled.”
With medication, Jim hasn’t had any significant health issues for the past eight years.
With acromegaly, people often don't notice symptoms until it is brought to their attention by comparing current and old photographs. Some famous people who had the pituitary disorder include the wrestler Andre the Giant, Lurch from the Addams family and Herman Munster from the Munsters.