The hypothalamus is a small but dynamic neuroendocrine structure situated in brain, dynamic because it controls vital body functions. It plays a predominant role in production of pituitary hormone. It is also involved in production of various other hormones such as thyrotrophin releasing hormone (TRH), corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) etc.
Apart from endocrine functions, hypothalamus performs several other non endocrinal functions. It regulates our body temperature; it also regulates our sleep-wake cycle, thirst, hunger and sexual behavior.Considering its important role, imagine how it would be when hypothalamus begins to function abnormally. Let us know what hypothalamic dysfunction causes are.
What Causes Dysfunction Of The Hypothalamus?
Several reasons can cause hypothalamic dysfunction.
- Malnutrition: Deficiency of healthy nutritional intake can put a patient at a risk of suffering from hypothalamic dysfunction. Poverty is one of the common causes for malnutrition.
- Injury: An accidental injury to the head, a penetrating projectile can lead to hemorrhage. It can lead to hypothalamus dysfunction.
- Eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa both are eating disorders. In anorexia nervosa the person eats less quantity of food, in order to stay slim. In bulimia, the patient has tendency to eat excessive amount of food, but at the same time she wants to lose weight. Consequently she adopts several measures such as self induced vomiting, laxatives, etc. The ups and downs in food eating habit may cause hypothalamus dysfunction.
- Tumors: Slow growing tumors of hypothalamus and pituitary gland can cause compression of hypothalamus. It can compress the vessels supplied to hypothalamus. It may cause visual disturbance, short stature, delayed puberty etc.
- Presence of excessive iron in the body.
Hypothalamic Dysfunction Symptoms
Since hypothalamus controls many glands and it also produces its own hormones called vasopressin and oxytocin, any functional changes in hypothalamus can have a great impact on a person’s health. Vast range of symptoms can be noted.
- Excruciating headache due to tumor. It can also lead to visual defects; especially the side vision is compromised.
- Hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland. And pituitary gland controls another gland called thyroid gland. When the hypothalamus function is hampered, it has an impact on pituitary gland and consequently the thyroid gland is affected. It produces less thyroid hormone. The condition is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include, weight gain, constipation, extreme tiredness, loss of hair, dry skin, pains and aches all over body, decreased sexual arousal, delayed menses.
- Regulation of temperature goes awry. Sweating, shivering and panting can be seen in patient.
- Hypothalamus dysfunction has an associated role in producing condition called diabetes insipidus.
- Poor social adjustments, precocious puberty, increased thirst, are few symptoms of hypothalamus dysfunction.
- There can also be low blood pressure.
- Retardation in growth is also observed.
- Milk secretion even if the women is not pregnant.
- Infertility in women and sterility in men. Due to lack of LH and FSH hormone.
How To Treat Hypothalamic Dysfunction?
When the doctor suspects hypothalamus dysfunction, he promptly advises the patient to do blood hormone tests. He also suggests doing MRI of brain to rule out benign or malignant growth in hypothalamus or in its surrounding structures.
Treatment mainly depends to correct the underlying cause which has resulted in hypothalamus dysfunction. In case of tumor, surgical removal may have obvious benefits. Sometimes, surgery is not possible as there is infiltration to other nearby organs in the brain. In such cases, radiation therapy helps to destroy the mass as much as possible.
Since one of the causes is malnutrition, patient should eat a balanced diet.
Hormone replacement therapy may be valuable when there is hormonal deficiency.