How can a brain injury affect hormones?
Hormones are regulated by the pituitary system in the brain. The pituitary is a gland that sits in your brain, right behind the top of your nose – if you place one finger at the top of your nose and the other just behind your temple, the pituitary can be found approximately where your fingers would intersect. It is sometimes called the “master” gland of the endocrine system because it controls the functions of many other endocrine glands. The anterior, or front part of the pituitary, secretes a number of hormones that stimulate production of other hormones from other organs including:
- Adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) leads to the production of cortisol, or “stress hormone,” from the adrenal glands.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) leads to the production of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) lead to the production of estrogen or testosterone and are also involved in ovulation and spermatogenesis.
- Growth Hormone (GH) leads to the production of IGF-1 from the liver.
- The pituitary also makes prolactin, which is involved with lactation.
The pituitary keeps these hormonal systems in balance; it can sense if hormone levels are too low or too high and alters the levels of its hormones accordingly. For example, if thyroid hormone is too low, the pituitary senses that and sends out more of the signal (the thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH, mentioned above) to the thyroid gland to let it know to make more thyroid hormone; if the thyroid hormone is too high, the pituitary senses that and secretes less TSH. The pituitary, this master regulator, functions in this way a bit like the thermostat in your house.
After a brain injury, you may experience a pituitary hormone deficiency. Left untreated, pituitary deficiencies can have negative effects on physical, cognitive, and emotional health. If you think you’re experiencing issues with hormone regulation, talk to your doctor.
To learn more about brain injury, hormone issues, and the endocrine system, click here to read our Q&A with Dr. Tamara Wexler. If you need personalized support or resources, contact BIAA’s National Brain Injury Information Center at 1-800-444-6443 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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