Facts About Hypothalamus Disorders
Hypothalamus disorders are those which affect the hypothalamus, which is an area of the brain that controls and regulates many different functions of the body. Dysfunctions of this small region have many causes, and can create numerous problems throughout the bodies of both men and women.
About The Hypothalamus
The complex human brain is composed of several different parts, each responsible for its own part in controlling the human body. One area, called the hypothalamus, is tucked below the thalamus in the most central part of the brain. Its main purpose is to control the functions of the pituitary gland which, in turn, regulates hormones by controlling the adrenal glands, ovaries, testes and the thyroid gland. However, the job of the hypothalamus does not end with the pituitary gland. It also has the task of regulating the body’s core temperature, emotions, growth, weight and appetite, sleep, sex drive and more. As important as the hypothalamus is, it is merely the size of an almond and weighs only about 5 grams.
With such taxing responsibilities, it is easy to understand how the body’s normal functions can easily be seriously disrupted if the hypothalamus is unable to perform its duties. Because of the close synergistic relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, any damage done to one directly affects the performance of the other; making it very difficult for doctors to determine which of the two has been affected. Without correct diagnosis of their condition, quality of life can be threatened; in some cases, life could even be at risk.
There are numerous hypothalamus disorders that affect both children and adults.
- In children, intracranial tumors such as craniopharyngioma and germinoma originate in the area of the pituitary gland that ultimately affects the hypothalamus. Tumors in this area can be a challenge to detect, which makes them difficult to treat as well. In addition, surgery on children under the age of 8 represents special challenges. Undetected, the tumor can grow and present a fatal threat.
- Tumors can also create dysfunction of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in adults.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- Birth defects
- Hypothalamus dysfunction is a general problem with that region of the brain.
- Hypopituitarism is a disorder in which the secretion of one or more of the eight hormones produced by the pituitary gland is lessened. Those individuals who have suffered brain injuries may very well be afflicted with hypopituitarism yet not diagnosed in many cases.
- Tertiary hypothyroidism is a disease caused by a defect due to hypothalamus disease.
- Diabetes insipidus
- Chronic fatigue
In addition, developmental disorders are often attributed to the hypothalamus. Because this area of the brain controls the growth-hormone-releasing hormone, or GHRH, precocious puberty or failure to begin or complete puberty can result when inadequate amounts of the hormone are secreted. Rapid weight gain and low sex hormone levels are also traced back to a problem with the hypothalamus.
Some illnesses that are brought on by hypothalamus issues are not viewed as legitimate diseases by physicians and even the individuals who suffer from them. Chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive problems, muscle pain and recurrent infections are among those illnesses that, since no relevant cause can be found, are often deemed as psychosomatic.
Symptoms Of Hypothalamus Disorders
Although symptoms of different disorders will vary, there are certain signs of problems with the hypothalamus. They include:
- Emotional issues
- Growth abnormalities
- Loss of vision or other visual field defects
Treatments For Hypothalamus Disorders
The manner in which hypothalamus disorders are treated largely depends upon what the problem is. Pituitary dysfunction is frequently treated with a variety of hormones. Neurologists generally address issues with pharmacological treatment and endocrinologists administer replacement hormones or drugs. When surgical intervention becomes a necessity, a neurosurgeon is required. Therapy can be recommended for treatment as well. Most hormones which are lacking due to problems in the hypothalamus or pituitary region can be replaced by using oral medications or injections.
Unfortunately, hormonal deficiencies caused by pituitary and hypothalamic dysfunctions cannot always be detected by standard blood tests. For example, low thyroid cannot be detected because pituitary dysfunction does not result in elevated TSH levels. Growth hormone deficiencies are also unable to be detected. On the other hand, hypopituitarism is generally diagnosed after running a series of blood tests, basal levels and dynamic tests.
It is difficult to assess the success of treatments in restoring an individual’s quality of life as it can vary widely according to the illness suffered. If a hormonal issue is causing the symptoms, hormonal replacement therapy is often very satisfactory.
Who Is At Risk
The result of studies investigating the propensity of those at risk for hypothalamus disorders has indicated that individuals who have endured radiation therapy or have suffered a traumatic brain injury or certain types of stroke do possess a higher risk.
Hypothalamus disorders can affect males and females, child and adult. There are treatments that will help to restore or at least increase the quality of life for those who have suffered symptoms that may have previously been unacknowledged.