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The Pituitary Gland

Pituitary gland
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The pituitary gland is sometimes called the "master" gland of the endocrine system. This is because it controls the functions of many of the other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea. It is located at the base of the brain. The gland is attached to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus by nerve fibers and blood vessels. The pituitary gland itself has 2 lobes:

  • Anterior lobe

  • Posterior lobe

Functions of the pituitary gland

Each lobe of the pituitary gland makes certain hormones.

Anterior lobe

  • GH (growth hormone), which influences growth during childhood and helps keep muscles and bones healthy in adults

  • Prolactin, which stimulates milk production in the female breast. It's role in men is uncertain.

  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which regulates the adrenal glands

  • TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), which regulates the thyroid gland

  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), which regulates the ovaries and testes

  • LH (luteinizing hormone), which regulates the ovaries or testes

Posterior lobe

  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This is actually made in the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland. It controls water and sodium balance in the body.

  • Oxytocin. This helps the uterus to contract during labor and childbirth and stimulates the release of milk during breastfeeding. Oxytocin also may play a role in bonding and trust, especially between parents and children.

Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
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