Pituitary Gland Disorders From Severe Sinus Infections

Written by michelle leach
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Pituitary Gland Disorders From Severe Sinus Infections
Your sinuses sit right around your nasal passages, and if infected badly enough, can wreak havoc on your pituitary gland. (Human nose macro shot image by Gleb Semenjuk from Fotolia.com)

Although the pituitary gland is roughly the size of a pea, it is responsible for big functions---such as growth rate and how much force is required to pump blood through arteries, according to the Merck Manual Home Edition. Because of where the gland sits, sinus problems---such as a chronic infection---can be deadly, according to the non-profit Pituitary Network Association.

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Basics

Sinuses are air-filled structures in the skull around the nasal passages, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Bechara Y. Ghorabed, a specialist at Otolaryngology---Head and Neck Surgery in Houston, explains that there are eight such cavities: two frontal sinuses above the eyes, two maxillary sinuses under the eyes, two ethmoid sinuses between the eyes and nose, and the sphenoid sinuses---at the centre of the skull tucked behind the nose and the eyes. The pituitary gland sits right behind the sphenoid sinus, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sinusitis

When you have an infection in your sinuses, those formerly vacant cavities fill up with mucus. You'll know you have an infection because it can be tough to breathe and you'll feel pressure in the front of your face and around your eyes. Sometimes this infection can progress to something more serious---sinusitis. It's not considered to be at this stage until you've had an infection for eight or more weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis

When you have cavernous sinus thrombosis, the sinusitis may be to blame for pituitary problems. In 30 per cent of all cases of this deadly and rare condition, the patient had an underlying infection in either the ethmoid or sphenoid sinuses, according to Merck Manual Professional. If sinusitis is the cause, you'll have to undergo surgery to have the mucus drained from the cavity. Another 30 per cent of those with CST develop hypopituitarism---a condition in which the gland isn't able to make enough of one or more hormones necessary for basic body functions, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hypopituitarism

If you have hypopituitarism, you'll feel weak and tired. You may not want to eat, but you'll want to drink water---lots of it, according to the Mayo Clinic. You may also experience sexual or reproductive problems; men may lose interest in sex and women may stop having periods. If certain symptoms, such as headaches, problems seeing and confusion emerge, your pituitary may be bleeding, which is a medical emergency. It's believed that the anaerobic bacteria responsible for some serious cases of sinus infections cause CST and the resulting hypopituitarism, according to Merck Manual Professional.

Abscess

A puss-filled mass surrounded by inflammation, known as an abscess, may develop on the pituitary gland. This abscess has been linked to sinusitis, specifically an infection involving the sphenoid sinus, according to medical organisations, including China's Sinlau Christian Hospital's department of diagnostic radiology, whose findings were featured in the 2005 edition of the Chinese Journal of Radiology. It contends these very rare masses are often confused with pituitary tumours. Though deadly, symptoms are often very subtle, like headache. As with other sinusitis-prompted pituitary conditions, the affected area must be drained surgically.

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