Symptoms of a Pituitary Tumor

Many pituitary tumors never cause any symptoms. When they do, the symptoms can be attributed to three different causes:

  • Growth of the tumor, causing pressure on nearby brain structures
  • Damage to the pituitary gland, and a decrease in or loss of the gland’s ability to produce hormones
  • Excess hormones produced by a “functioning” tumor

A tumor that grows large enough to press against adjacent brain structures may cause:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision problems
  • Facial pain or numbness

When the tumor disrupts the pituitary’s ability to produce hormones, symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slowed growth in children
  • Sexual dysfunction and infertility
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increased thirst and urination

When a functioning tumor produces hormones, the extra hormones can cause symptoms based on which hormone is being produced in excess:

  • Prolactin-producing pituitary tumors can affect libido, sexual function, fertility.
  • Adrenocorticotrophic hormone-producing pituitary tumors can cause depression and anxiety, easy bruising, weight gain, acne, and muscle weakness, high blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • Growth hormone-producing pituitary tumors can lead to a condition known as acromegaly, with excess growth of hands, feet, jaw, heart enlargement, high sugar, blood pressure.
  • Thyrotropin-producing pituitary tumors can cause palpitations, tremor, weight loss, and insomnia.

Since the symptoms of a pituitary tumor can easily be confused with those of other conditions, an accurate diagnosis is important. (See Diagnosing and Treating a Pituitary Tumor.) Many people with pituitary tumors have them for years because the symptoms come on so slowly that they don’t recognize them — in others, a severe and sudden headache are the first signs of a tumor.

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Our Care Team

  • Vice Chair for Clinical Research
  • David and Ursel Barnes Professor in Minimally Invasive Surgery
  • Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Otolaryngology
  • Director, Center for Epilepsy and Pituitary Surgery
  • Co-Director, Surgical Neuro-oncology
Phone: 212-746-5620
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Leon Levy Research Fellow
  • Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute
Phone: 646-962-3389
  • Assistant Professor of Neuroendocrinology in Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine
Phone: 646-962-3556
  • Assistant Professor, Neurological Surgery
Phone: 718-670-1837
  • Director, Neurosurgical Radiosurgery
  • Associate Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
  • Robert G. Schwager, MD ’67 Education Scholar, Cornell University
Phone: 212-746-2438
  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens
Phone: (718) 670-1837
  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist
  • Alvina and Willis Murphy Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery
  • Director, Brain Metastases Program
  • Co-director, William Rhodes and Louise Tilzer-Rhodes Center for Glioblastoma
Phone: 212-746-1996
  • Associate Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
Phone: 718-780-5176
  • Endocrinologist
Phone: (646) 962-8690
  • Endocrinologist
Phone: (646) 962-8690

Reviewed by: Georgiana Dobri, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: December 2020

Weill Cornell Medicine Brain & Spine Center 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787