Hypothalamic dysfunction is a problem with part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus helps control the pituitary gland and regulates many body functions.
The hypothalamus helps keep the body's internal functions in balance. It helps regulate:
Another important function of the hypothalamus is to control the pituitary gland. The pituitary is a small gland at the base of the brain. It lies just below the hypothalamus. The pituitary, in turn, controls the:
There are many causes of hypothalamic dysfunction. The most common are:
Other causes include:
Symptoms are usually due to the hormones or brain signals that are missing. In children, there may be growth problems, either too much or too little growth. In other children, puberty occurs too early or too late.
Tumor symptoms may include headache or loss of vision.
If the adrenal glands are affected, there may be symptoms of low adrenal function. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, weight loss, and lack of interest in activities.
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms.
Blood or urine tests may be ordered to determine levels of hormones such as:
Other possible tests include:
Treatment depends on the cause of the hypothalamic dysfunction:
Many causes of hypothalamic dysfunction are treatable or reversible. Most of the time, missing hormones can be replaced.
Complications of hypothalamic dysfunction depend on the cause.
SEX GLAND DEFICIENCY
GROWTH HORMONE DEFICIENCY
Contact your provider if you have:
If you have symptoms of a hormonal deficiency, discuss replacement therapy with your provider.
Giustina A, Allora A, Frara S, Spina A, Mortini P. The hypothalamus. In: Melmed S, ed. The Pituitary. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 9.
Weiss RE. Neuroendocrinology and the neuroendocrine system. In: Goldman L, Cooney KA, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 27th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2024:chap 204.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/12/2023
Reviewed By: Sandeep K. Dhaliwal, MD, board-certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Springfield, VA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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