Many adult patients do not feel the same again after a head injury or blast due to damage to their pituitary gland. Many sustain a mild brain injury and don’t seek treatment, unnecessarily suffering with the symptoms, often left undiagnosed for years. The most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is falls, typically from a bed or ladder, in a bath or down the stairs. The second most common being vehicle-related collisions. However, there are other types of head injuries such as: stroke, hematomas (blood clots in or around the brain), infections, radiation to the head/neck for cancer that can affect the pituitary gland and cause similar debilitating symptoms.
What is the pituitary gland and how is it affected by a head injury?
It is located just about in the middle your head and is called the “master” gland even though it is only the size of a pea.It is important, as it links the nervous system and endocrine system, affecting growth, sexual development, human reproduction and metabolism.The pituitary produces a host of hormones that travel the body, directing bodily processes or stimulating other glands to produce hormones.
These hormones include: anti-diuretic hormone (helps you keep the correct water balance), cortisol (stress and blood sugar hormone), testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid stimulating hormone and growth hormone (plays a role in healing, bone density, muscle mass, energy levels, cholesterol levels and more).Although it’s protected by bone, the pituitary gland can be particularly susceptible to damage, especially during a head injury.
Recent published articles in the Annals of Neurology and the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry show startling statistics regarding pituitary hormone dysfunction after head injury:
32% of soldiers 2-48 months after a moderate to severe blast injury have pituitary hormone dysfunction
12 months after a mild to severe head injury as much as:
36.4% adults have pituitary hormone dysfunction
43.3% have low growth hormone
12.7% have low testosterone, estrogen and/or progesterone
10% have low thyroid hormone production
16% have more than one of these hormone deficiencies
The most recent guidelines for testing and replacement of these hormone deficiencies are:
Published by the Endocrine Society
Approved by the FDA
Covered by most insurance, including growth hormone
How are head injuries and hormone deficiencies diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing a head injury involves a thorough history, symptoms survey and diagnostic testing to determine if adults have any of these hormone deficiencies and other causes of continued symptoms.Testing can include 24-hour urine and five-point saliva panels to diagnose growth and other hormone deficiencies, as well as bloodwork and other testing to determine causal sources of other potentially connected symptoms.
Treatments can include a combined approach of hormone replacement (if deficient), hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cognitive therapy with qEEG neuro/biofeedback, addressing nutritional deficiencies, headache treatment with occipital nerve blocks and more.
If you have suffered a head injury, don’t let the symptoms continue to interfere with your life, seek treatment to help reclaim your brain.