What does the pituitary gland do?

Sometimes called the "master gland," the pituitary gland is the primary influencer of how your other glands operate. The pituitary gland secretes and stores hormones, which it uses to stimulate your other glands. Your hormones regulate a variety of body functions, such as temperature, urine production, thyroid activity, growth in children, and the production of sex hormones (testosterone in men and estrogen in women). This makes your pituitary gland pretty important.

Specifically, your pituitary gland manufactures eight different types of hormones: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), luteinising hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin, growth hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), antidiuretic hormone (ADH), and oxytocin.


Your pituitary gland receives messages from another part of your brain (the hypothalamus), which has itself received messages from the environment or other areas of your body. For example, if one of your hormone levels gets too low, your hypothalamus will send a message via hormones to your pituitary gland. In response, your pituitary gland secretes hormones of its own and sends them through your blood stream like little messengers. If all is going as it should, these hormones reach the gland that had not been producing enough of its own hormones. The hormones from your pituitary gland then stimulate new hormone production out of the misbehaving gland. If a gland is overproducing hormones, then your pituitary gland will send the message to lower hormone production.

Your pituitary gland can begin to malfunction if a tumor develops and begins to exert pressure on it. The area in your pituitary gland that is the most vulnerable to dysfunction is the area that produces sex hormones.