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Pituitary Gland

Unveiling the hidden powers of the pituitary gland: Discover how this tiny yet mighty organ influences our growth, hormones, and overall well-being.

USMLE Guide: Pituitary Gland


The pituitary gland, also known as the "master gland," is a small, pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. It plays a crucial role in regulating various hormone levels in the body. Understanding the pituitary gland is essential for medical professionals preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the pituitary gland, its anatomy, function, and associated disorders.


The pituitary gland consists of two main parts: the anterior pituitary (adenohypophysis) and the posterior pituitary (neurohypophysis).

Anterior Pituitary

  • Location: Situated in the sella turcica, a bony depression at the base of the skull
  • Hormones produced:
    • Growth hormone (GH)
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
    • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
    • Luteinizing hormone (LH)
    • Prolactin (PRL)

Posterior Pituitary

  • Location: Connected to the hypothalamus by nerve fibers
  • Hormones produced:
    • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin
    • Oxytocin


The pituitary gland regulates the secretion of various hormones, which are vital for maintaining homeostasis in the body. Here are the key functions of each hormone:

  1. Growth hormone (GH):

    • Stimulates bone and tissue growth
    • Regulates metabolism and energy balance
  2. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH):

    • Stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol
    • Plays a role in the stress response
  3. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH):

    • Stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones
    • Regulates metabolism and energy levels
  4. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH):

    • In females, stimulates ovarian follicle growth and estrogen production
    • In males, promotes spermatogenesis
  5. Luteinizing hormone (LH):

    • In females, triggers ovulation and promotes progesterone production
    • In males, stimulates testosterone production
  6. Prolactin (PRL):

    • Stimulates milk production in breastfeeding women
  7. Antidiuretic hormone (ADH):

    • Regulates water balance by controlling water reabsorption in the kidneys
  8. Oxytocin:

    • Facilitates uterine contractions during childbirth
    • Promotes milk ejection during breastfeeding
    • Influences social bonding and sexual activity

Pituitary Disorders

Several conditions can affect the pituitary gland, leading to hormonal imbalances and associated symptoms. Here are a few notable pituitary disorders:

  1. Pituitary adenoma:

    • Benign tumor in the pituitary gland
    • May cause hormonal overproduction or underproduction
    • Symptoms depend on the affected hormone
  2. Hypopituitarism:

    • Insufficient hormone production by the pituitary gland
    • May result from tumors, radiation therapy, or other causes
    • Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and decreased libido
  3. Acromegaly:

    • Excessive growth hormone production in adults
    • Manifests as enlarged hands, feet, and facial features
    • Can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic complications
  4. Diabetes insipidus:

    • Insufficient ADH production or response
    • Results in excessive thirst and polyuria


The pituitary gland is a vital component of the endocrine system, regulating hormone production and maintaining homeostasis. Understanding its anatomy, function, and associated disorders is crucial for medical professionals preparing for the USMLE. This guide provides a comprehensive overview, covering the pituitary gland's anatomy, hormone functions, and common disorders.

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