If you have low testosterone, pituitary tumor concerns might be on your list of possible causes to rule out.
One of the less common causes of low testosterone is a pituitary tumor (well, a specific type of pituitary tumor).
The pituitary gland is a tiny organ about the size of a pea, located in your brain. Pituitary tumors are a type of brain tumor that can often mimic the function of this gland, producing extra hormones that your body doesn’t need (and throwing your other hormones into disarray).
Hormones are fickle things—the complex interplay of hormones in your body is quite delicate, and it doesn’t take much to throw it off balance and affect your body profoundly.
But to fight the tumor, you must first know the tumor is present.
Low Testosterone, Pituitary Tumor Basics
Let’s start with the basics of the pituitary tumor, low testosterone, and how they’re interrelated.
There are two main types of pituitary tumors, designated by what they do in your body: functional and nonfunctional adenomas, where functional means the tumor is functioning like another pituitary gland.
Starting to see the problem?
What certain types of pituitary tumors can do is add too much of a particular hormone into your body.
I’m going to get a little technical here, so bear with me.
Depending on the tumor, it might produce one or more of the following hormones:
- Growth hormone
- ACTH (which stimulates your body to produce steroid hormones)
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone
- Luteinizing hormone
It’s the last two hormones that interest us most. These hormones can be produced by two specific types of pituitary tumors:
- Prolactinomas (secrete excess prolactin)
- Gonadotropin-secreting adenomas (secrete excess luteinizing hormone or other hormones).
The problem with these hormones is that both can cause sexual dysfunction and be associated with low testosterone (hypogonadism).
Prolactin is a hormone normally associated with milk production in women, but it occurs naturally (in small amounts) in men. Excess prolactin has been associated with low testosterone levels, and according to one study:
Hyperprolactinemia [excess prolactin] induces hypogonadism [low testosterone in men] by interfering with the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus.
Another class of hormones, gonadotropins, are also associated with low testosterone (hypogonadism).
According to The Merck Manual, “High gonadotropin levels, even with low-normal testosterone levels, indicate primary hypogonadism, whereas gonadotropin levels that are low or lower than expected for the level of testosterone indicate secondary hypogonadism.”
While adding any of these hormones to your system is severely problematic, there’s not a whole lot I can do to help you with excess growth hormone.
However, if your body is making excess luteinizing hormone or prolactin, the effects this would have on your testosterone levels can be countered (once the source of the problem is addressed).
For many functional pituitary tumors, even the treatment itself (brain surgery or radiation) can disrupt normal hormone production, leading to hypogonadism (low testosterone).
In these cases, long-term testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may be necessary because your body no longer produces testosterone normally.
If You Have Low Testosterone, A Pituitary Tumor Might Be the Culprit
If you think you might have a pituitary tumor because you’re having symptoms, you likely need treatment.
Unfortunately, the range of symptoms for pituitary tumors is quite wide, mostly because the different types of pituitary tumors can vary so widely.
Check out this list of many possible symptoms for different types of pituitary tumors. If your symptoms align with these, you’ll want to consult your primary healthcare provider about next steps.
Once your treatment is complete, testosterone replacement therapy may be appropriate, especially if you’re exhibiting signs of low testosterone (hypogonadism).
If you’ve already had your pituitary tumor treated, and your testosterone levels are still low, contact us—we can discuss your situation individually and see if treatment is right for you.