Northside Health Library Hypothalamic dysfunction
Hypothalamic dysfunction is a problem with the region of the brain called the
hypothalamus, which helps control the pituitary gland and regulate many body functions.
The hypothalamus helps control the pituitary gland, particularly in response to stress. The pituitary, in turn, controls the:
The hypothalamus also helps regulate:
Salt and water balance
Weight and appetite
Causes of hypothalamic dysfunction include:
Infections and swelling (inflammation)
Too much iron
The most common tumors in the area are
craniopharyngiomas in children.
Symptoms are usually due to the hormones that are missing. In children, there may be growth problems -- either too much or too little growth -- or puberty that occurs too early or too late.
Hair or skin changes
Loss of body hair and muscle (in men)
Menstrual cycle changes
Low adrenal function symptoms:
Other, less common symptoms may include:
Body temperature problems
Kallmann's syndrome (a type of hypothalamic dysfunction that occurs in men) symptoms:
Lowered function of sexual hormones ( hypogonadism)
Inability to smell
Exams and Tests
Blood or urine tests to determine levels of hormones such as:
Other possible tests:
Hormone injections followed by timed blood samples
MRI or CT scans of the brain
Visual field eye exam (if there is a tumor)
Treatment depends on the cause of the hypothalamic dysfunction.
Tumors -- surgery or radiation
Hormonal deficiencies -- replace missing hormones
Specific treatments may be available for bleeding, infection, and other causes.
Many causes of hypothalamic dysfunction are treatable. Most of the time missing hormones can be replaced.
Complications of hypothalamic dysfunction depend on the cause.
Problems related to the brain area where the tumor occurs
Inability to deal with stress (such as surgery or infection), which can be life threatening
Growth hormone deficiency:
Short stature (in children)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if you have:
Symptoms of hormone excess or deficiency
Maintain a healthy diet and don't exercise too hard or lose weight too quickly. If you believe you have an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, get medical attention: these conditions can be life threatening.
If you have symptoms of a hormonal deficiency, discuss replacement therapy with your health care provider.
Low MJ. Neuroendocrinology. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR.
Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 7.
Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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