Pituitary Tumor: Symptoms

Man pressing his hand against his forehead and eyes

What are the symptoms of pituitary tumors?

Not all pituitary tumors cause symptoms. But those that do can cause different kinds of symptoms.

Pituitary tumors that make too many hormones (functional) cause symptoms linked to the hormone they produce.

Pituitary tumors that don’t make too many hormones (nonfunctional) can grow large (macroadenomas). They cause symptoms because they press on nearby nerves and other areas.

Symptoms caused by tumor pressure

Large noncancer and cancerous pituitary tumors may press on nerves or parts of the brain. This can cause the following symptoms:

  • Double or blurred vision

  • Loss of side (peripheral) vision

  • Sudden loss of sight

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Numbness or pain in the face

  • Fainting

These types of tumors may also press on and damage parts of the pituitary gland. This can reduce the amount of pituitary hormones. This may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Upset stomach (nausea)

  • Weakness

  • Unwanted weight loss or gain

  • Loss of menstrual periods

  • Men having problems keeping an erection (impotence)

  • Less interest in sex

Symptoms caused by excess hormones

Functional pituitary tumors can cause different symptoms, based on the excess hormone they make.  

Pituitary tumors that make growth hormone (GH)

Symptoms caused by having too much GH are different in children than in adults. For children, symptoms include:

  • Rapid growth

  • Pain in joints

  • Too much sweating

  • Being abnormally tall (gigantism)

Over time, adults with tumors that cause high GH levels may have the following symptoms:

  • Increase in hat, shoe, or ring size caused by growth of head, hands, or feet

  • Deeper voice

  • Change in facial structure

  • Joint pain

  • Too much sweating

  • Headache

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney stones

  • High blood pressure

Pituitary tumors that make ACTH (corticotropin)

Pituitary tumors that make the hormone ACTH cause the adrenal glands to make too many steroid hormones. This may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain, often in the belly

  • Purple stretch marks on the belly

  • A hump of fat on the back of the neck

  • Abnormal growth of body hair

  • A round, swollen face 

  • Less interest in sex

  • Weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis)

Other more rare kinds of pituitary tumors cause other symptoms. If you have any abnormal symptoms, see your healthcare provider.

When to see your healthcare provider

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have a pituitary tumor or pituitary cancer.