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Tunnel Vision in Pituitary Tumors

Tunnel Vision in Pituitary Tumors Imagine opening your eyes and it looking like you are in a tunnel, darkness around the edges and a clear picture in the center of your vision. This condition is known as tunnel vision. Tunnel can occur for a variety of different reasons including medical conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, strong emotion like fear or anger and even drug loss and alcohol use. Pituitary tumors are another common cause of tunnel vision. Let’s learn more about pituitary tumors and their effect on the eyes.

The Pituitary Gland

To understand pituitary tumors you first need to understand what the pituitary is. The pituitary is a small gland that is located at the base of your brain near your nasal passages. These are located just above the back of the roof of your mouth. It is about the size of pea. This gland is responsible for producing the hormones that control the other glands in your body. Some even call this small gland “the master control gland.”

Tumors can occur in the pituitary gland. These tumors are also referred to as pituitary adenomas. These tumors are generally not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body. They are typically very slow growing. These tumors are also fairly common. In fact about 1 in 10,000 people will get a pituitary adenoma at some point in their life.

What Causes Pituitary Adenoma?

The exact cause or causes of pituitary tumors is unknown. They may be caused by genetics or exposure to radiation, but many times the cause is unknown. If you have a family history of pituitary tumors this can also increase your risk for someday getting a tumor. There are no known ways to prevent or reduce your risk.

Pituitary Tumors and the Eyes

Pituitary tumors are often small, sometimes 1 cm or smaller, but can still cause serious medical issues and symptoms. Pituitary tumors can cause various symptoms including headaches, hormonal imbalances and nausea. They also commonly cause vision problems including tunnel vision. In fact vision problems are often one of the first symptoms that people notice when they have these tumors. One reason that pituitary tumors lead to vision problems is due to the close proximity of this gland to the eye and optic nerve. As the tumor grows larger it may press on the optic nerve. This can result in full tunnel vision or a slight blurring of your peripheral vision.

Diagnosis of Pituitary Adenoma

If you experience vision changes or tunnel vision it is important to go to the doctor to find out the cause. If a pituitary adenoma is expected you will likely be asked to visit an endocrinologist which is a doctor that specializes in hormonal problems. They will then conduct a variety of different tests to determine if you have this condition. These tests can include blood tests, urine tests, vision tests and MRI scans as well as other specialized tests.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Luckily pituitary tumors are generally curable and the available treatment options are often highly effective. Surgery is one common treatment option for this condition. The tumor is generally removed during a surgical procedure which may or may not damage the rest of the pituitary gland. If damage is done to the gland hormone replacement therapy may be needed to restore normal hormone levels.

Another common form of treatment for pituitary tumors is radiation therapy. Radiation can be very effective at killing the tumor cells. In cases of pituitary tumors there are three common types of radiation therapy that may be used. One is conventional therapy where radiation makes its way to the tumor from an outside source. Stereotactic radiosurgery involves directing a radiation beam at the tumor. Finally proton beam radiotherapy may be used which involves sending a beam of positively charged protons at the tumor. In some cases tumor shrinking medications can also be used.

Generally once treatment is complete vision will return to normal. It is also important to realize that pituitary tumors are not cancerous and will generally not spread to other areas of the body. Treatment is important however since these tumors can lead to severe hormone imbalances, major vision problems and other medical issues. It is important to seek treatment immediately since the tumor can cause permanent damage to your pituitary gland and other parts of the brain as it grows larger or when it is removed.

Pituitary tumors or adenomas are a common noncancerous growth that can occur in the pituitary gland. They are very treatable but can cause serious symptoms including tunnel vision and hormonal imbalances.

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