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Pituitary Dysfunction Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

May 18, 2016

Pituitary Dysfunction

If you are experiencing behavioral, cognitive, or physical issues following a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you might be suffering from pituitary dysfunction. Complications to the endocrine system following a TBI can hamper the rehabilitation process, leading to long-lasting symptoms and potential difficulty achieving a full recovery. The pituitary gland, which is responsible for regulating hormones, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of a TBI. The best defense against increased or worsening symptoms is early detection, but diagnosis through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be difficult, often leading to confusion surrounding the presence and persistence of certain symptoms, such as fatigue, erratic behavior, and issues with cognition, among many others.

Unfortunately, because pituitary dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose, insurance defense counsel will often claim that a victim is exaggerating or even faking their symptoms. Of course, this is not the case. Simply put, many of the symptoms associated with pituitary dysfunction are not immediately visible (social withdrawal, fatigue, irritability, etc.) and thus are dismissed by opposing attorneys and often the medical field as well. For this reason, you need an attorney who is experienced with the legal and medical implications of TBI, especially those elements that pertain specifically to pituitary dysfunction.

Covering the Basics

Before delving into the topic of pituitary dysfunction and TBI further, let’s establish a shared language. The endocrine system includes glands and organs that control the creation and distribution of hormones, including those that influence growth, sexuality, metabolism, immunity, and many more. The central element of the endocrine system is the pituitary gland (also known as the “master gland”), which controls the function of several other glands, including the adrenals and the thyroid. Furthermore, the pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain, often placing it directly in harm’s way in the event of TBI.

Studies now show that between 30% and 50% of all TBIs likely involve some degree of pituitary damage, which is especially alarming considering how difficult this damage can be to detect and the severity of potential symptoms. In recent years, neurologists and endocrinologists have seen their fields overlap regarding TBI, and many professionals now believe that a child who has suffered TBI should undergo a pituitary screening within six months of experiencing initial symptoms. If it is determined that these symptoms are indeed the result of pituitary dysfunction brought on by TBI, hormone replacement therapy is one course of treatment. Additionally, the Department of Defense will soon begin pituitary testing for all veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Recent reports also suggest that many former professional football players who suffered concussions during their careers are now experiencing symptomology related to pituitary dysfunction.

Conditions and Symptoms of Pituitary Dysfunction

Individuals who have suffered some form of TBI (regardless of severity) may also be suffering from pituitary dysfunction, which will often present itself in the following ways shortly after the initial injury:

  • Adrenal Insufficiency: This occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce a consistent and ample amount of hormones, resulting in fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure, and even death if not treated properly.
  • Diabetes Insipidus: This condition can result if the pituitary gland is unable to produce sufficient ADH (anti-diuretic hormone), leading to extreme thirst coupled with frequent urination.
  • Hyponatremia: The result of an imbalance of the ratio of salt and water in the body, hyponatremia presents in the form of headaches, fatigue, nausea, confusion, and even convulsions.

Issues and symptoms that might arise in the months and years following TBI include:

  • Hypothyroidism: A lack of thyroid hormone creation and distribution that can lead to fatigue, constipation, and weight gain.
  • Hypogonadism: A lack of sex hormone creation and distribution that can lead to cessation of regular menstrual cycles and hair loss in women or lacking sex drive and breast enlargement in men.
  • Growth Hormone Deficiency: A lack of growth hormone that can lead to development problems in children and fatigue, increased fat, and decreased physicality in adults.
  • Hyperprolactinemia: Prolactin is the hormone responsible for breast milk production, and higher-than-normal blood levels of this hormone can lead to menstrual problems in women and erectile dysfunction in men.

Treatment and Recourse

If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury and are experiencing any of the conditions or symptoms above, you might also be dealing with pituitary dysfunction. In addition to seeking treatment from a neurologist, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist who will ascertain the proper diagnosis and prescribe an effective mode of treatment.

As several different hormones might be affected, there is no standard course of treatment for pituitary dysfunction, but the primary goal is to regulate proper hormone creation and distribution. This could include medication or supplements to help augment or stimulate hormone production.

If you have suffered a TBI and are currently suffering from any of the maladies listed above, you may have pituitary dysfunction that was caused by your initial brain injury. To seek financial restitution for your initial and ongoing pain and suffering, please contact the Law Office of William D. Cook by calling (800) 757-7757 or by completing the form on this page. We offer free consultations, and our contingent fee structure ensures that you do not pay a dime in fees or expenses unless or until we have achieved optimal recovery on your behalf.

References:

Blair, S. (2015, May 20). Brain injury: finding the hidden harm in your case. Washington State Association for Justice. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonjustice.org/index.cfm?pg=semwebCatalog&panel=showSWOD&seminarid=6221

Holm, G. (2015, December 2). Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism). healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/hypopituitarism

Traumatic brain injury fact sheet. (2016). Hormone Health Network. Retrieved from http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2013/traumatic-brain-injury

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