Why does pituitary adenoma cause headaches?

Pituitary adenoma is a benign tumor of an endocrine gland that is situated underneath the brain. Pituitary gland is connected to the brain and it produces several hormones. The most common type of pituitary tumor is one that secretes prolactin, hormone responsible for breast milk production. Women with this tumor usually have irregular periods and breast discharge. Pituitary adenoma usually does not cause headaches, unless it becomes large and compresses the brain. Most of the tumors are small and are called microadenomas and only rarely become large macroadenomas. A group of German researchers just published a study in Cephalalgia that looked at possible causes of headaches induced by pituitary adenoma. Fifty-eight patients with pituitary adenoma were analyzed. Twenty-four patients (41%) had tumor-attributed headache with seven having migraine-like headaches, 11 tension-type headaches, and three having both. Cluster headache-like headache was found once, and two headaches remained unclassified. Tumor-attributed headache was associated with a positive prior history of headaches, nicotine abuse, and a faster tumor growth. Whenever a woman with headaches has irregular periods or a milky discharge from her breast an MRI scan of her brain and a blood test for prolactin level must be obtained. If the tumor is allowed to grow large it can cause impairment and even loss of vision because of the compression of optic nerves. The treatment is usually with medication that shrinks the tumor and only rarely surgery is needed. This surgery can often be performed transnasally – through the nose with faster recovery than when it has to be done by opening the skull.Pituitary adenoma

5 comments
  1. Dr. Mauskop says: 10/03/20174:17 pm

    Since 18% of women suffer from migraines, it is possible that headaches are not related to the microadenoma.

  2. Rachael says: 10/03/201711:31 am

    I was also diagnosed with a microadenoma and experience headaches at times. I read that only macroadenomas cause headaches. Why do i have headaches then?

  3. Sussy says: 09/20/20178:43 pm

    I have microadenoma and i also have crucial headache.
    I was having headache for about 4day non-stop Finally went to the hospital and got an MRI done and my doctor told me it was a tumor call Microadenoma.

  4. Dr. Mauskop says: 10/04/201612:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience and highlighting the fact that everyone with a new onset of severe headaches should have an MRI scan of the brain.

  5. Katie Winschief says: 10/03/20167:23 pm

    I have a macroadenoma and have horrific headaches. Imitrex does not even cut it. Also, they can greatly affect your mood, energy level and change your skin color. I have brown splotches all over my neck and face, hands from mine. You can have a nonsecreting tumor and borderline cortisol for a long time before you have some kind of addisonian’s crisis. Don’t let them just say you are imagining things and end up with a seizure on the floor and near death. People are not kind about it, chalk it up to crazy but if you know something is wrong and have this tumor, people please don’t play around. Addison’s (secondary) can kill you very quickly. Appreciate the article and I can tell you from my own experience the headaches are disabling and the moods from your cortisol being low are extreme.

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