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About the Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is a small gland located at the base of the brain. It is sometimes called the master gland, because it secretes hormones that control the functions of the other endocrine glands.

The function of the pituitary gland is very complex—it affects many parts of the body with many different hormones. Too much (oversecretion) or too little (undersecretion) of one or more of those hormones can have a serious effect on a child’s health. The gland helps control many functions of the body, such as:

  • Growth
  • Blood pressure
  • Some aspects of pregnancy
  • Production of breast milk
  • Function of the reproductive organs in women and men
  • Function of the thyroid gland
  • The conversion of food into energy (metabolism)
  • Water balance in the body

The pituitary gland consists of two major sections, each of which produces certain hormones.

Anterior (front) lobe
The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland makes up 80 percent of the gland's weight. It releases a variety of hormones that affect growth, physical and sexual development, and other endocrine glands.

The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland produces:

  • Growth hormone—stimulates the long bones to grow during childhood and puberty and also effects how the body uses nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)—causes the thyroid gland to produce two hormones, which help control your body's metabolism
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)—causes the adrenal glands to produce a hormone called cortisol, which helps your body manage stress and fight infection
  • Prolactin—stimulates breast milk production after a woman gives birth
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)—in women, it helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries. In men, FSH helps control the production of sperm.
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)—along with FSH, helps regulate the menstrual cycle in women and causes ovulation to occur

Posterior (back) lobe
The posterior lobe of the pituitary produces:

  • Oxytocin—helps contract the uterus during childbirth
  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH)—helps the kidneys conserve the right amount of water.
    If a person becomes dehydrated, the pituitary gland releases more ADH to help the body conserve the water it contains. Lack of ADH leads to too much excretion of water, a condition known as diabetes insipidus. Too much ADH leads to excessive retention of water by the body, a condition known as syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, or SIADH. This condition is rare in children.

To learn more about the pituitary gland, select from the list of topics and resources.

Child and Adolescent Growth Center
Diabetes Insipidus
Pituitary Tumors
  There are other rare conditions of the pituitary gland. To find more information about some of these conditions, use the section of this site called Rare Diseases A to Z.

If your child has been diagnosed with a condition of the pituitary gland, the doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests. For other tests and diagnostic procedures use the section of this site called Medical Tests A to Z.
Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)
CT Scan of the Head and Face
Genetic Testing
Growth Hormone
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Head
Thyroid Hormone Tests
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)


This listing provides you with Internet sites that are sponsored by government agencies or are well-known and credible national organizations.

» Go to the Pituitary Gland Resource Directory


Last modified on: 30 June 2015