Endocrine System Home > Empty Sella Syndrome

Empty sella syndrome is a disorder in which the pituitary gland flattens or shrinks, making the bony structure that protects it (the sella turcica) appear empty. There are two types: primary and secondary. Some of the symptoms associated with the condition include obesity, headaches, runny nose, and problems with vision. Treatment options usually include drug therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

What Is Empty Sella Syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome is a condition involving the sella turcica, a portion of the brain that surrounds and protects the pituitary gland. With this condition, the pituitary gland flattens or shrinks, making the sella turcica appear empty. In most cases, the pituitary gland is of normal size (or a bit smaller) and still functions normally.

Understanding the Sella Turcica and the Pituitary Gland

The sella turcica is a bony structure at the base of the brain that surrounds and protects the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland, sometimes called the master gland, plays a critical role in regulating growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction. It produces a number of key hormones, including:
  • Prolactin, which stimulates the breasts to produce milk
  • Growth hormone, which regulates growth
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropin), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol
  • Thyrotropin, which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone
  • Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which regulate ovulation and estrogen and progesterone production (in women) and sperm formation and testosterone production (in men).
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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