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Hypothalamic dysfunction

Contents of this page:


Central nervous system
Central nervous system

Definition    Return to top

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.

Causes    Return to top

The hypothalamus helps control the pituitary gland, particularly in response to stress. The pituitary, in turn, controls the:

The hypothalamus also helps regulate:

Causes of hypothalamic dysfunction include:

The most common tumors in the area are craniopharyngiomas in children.

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms generally relate to the hormones that are missing. In children, there may be growth problems -- either too much growth or too little -- or puberty that occurs too early or too late.

Tumor symptoms:

Hypothyroidism symptoms:

Low adrenal function symptoms:

Other, less common symptoms may include:

Kallmann's syndrome (a type of hypothalamic dysfunction that occurs in men) symptoms:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Blood or urine tests to determine levels of hormones such as:

Other possible tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment depends on the cause of the hypothalamic dysfunction.

Specific treatments may be available for bleeding, infection, and other causes.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Many causes of hypothalamic dysfunction are treatable. Most of the time missing hormones can be replaced.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Complications of hypothalamic dysfunction depend on the cause.

Brain tumors:


Adrenal insufficiency:

Gonadal deficiency:

Growth hormone deficiency:

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your doctor if you have:

Prevention    Return to top

Maintain a healthy diet and don't exercise too strenuously 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.

References    Return to top

Low MJ. Neuroendocrinology. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 7.

Update Date: 3/18/2008

Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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