Frequently Asked Questions

In this section are answers to questions about endocrine-related diseases. There are separate sections for diabetes, pituitary problems and bone problems.

Questions About Pituitary Problems

No, pituitary tumors are usually benign. They grow very slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body.

No, these tumors are caused by an abnormality in the genetic material of the pituitary cell, which causes the cells to continue growing and dividing.

Some pituitary tumors can be controlled with medication. Others may require surgery of radiotherapy.

We have synthetic hormones that patients take either by mouth or injection to replace the missing hormones from the malfunctioning pituitary gland.

Questions About Bones

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones gradually become thin and lose mass. This causes the bones to become frail and break more easily. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease in America, affecting about 10 million people.

The body is constantly replacing old bone with new bone, just like growing new hair and skin. Osteoporosis occurs when the body does not make enough new bone to replace the old, or old bone is lost too fast for the body to replace it. A number of factors cause bones to begin thinning and become frail. As women become menopausal, they make less estrogen, the female hormone that helps keep bones strong. Other causes of osteoporosis may be a diet low in calcium or vitamin D, heavy steroid use and alcoholism.

Preventing osteoporosis starts early in life with a good diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Frequent exercise also plays an important role since It increases bone strength and makes patients less likely to experience fractures or breaks. After menopause, some women may take estrogen supplements to help keep bones strong. Persons at risk for osteoporosis should be checked regularly by a doctor. When the disorder is discovered early through bone scans and X-rays, the doctor can suggest changes in diet, exercise and medications to keep bones healthy. Unfortunately, when osteoporosis is discovered as a result of a broken or fractured bone, it is too late to take preventive action.

Women should take in 1,000 mg of calcium in their daily diet. If there is a strong family history of osteoporosis or osteoporosis has already been diagnosed, a woman should take 1,500 mg of calcium daily. A small daily supplement of vitamin D (400 IU) is recommended because it improves the absorption of calcium by the body. Either calcium carbonate tablets or calcium citrate tablets may be taken four to six times a day up to 1,000 to 1,500 mg total. Calcium citrate is absorbed better by some patients and may have fewer digestive track side effects. Men with osteoporosis are usually given calcium supplements of between 1 and 1.5 grams a day. When there are signs of reduced calcium absorption, supplements can be increased up to three grams a day, and vitamin D supplements of 50,000 IU may be given once or twice a week. However, at dosage levels this high calcium levels should be closely monitored.

Some people with osteoporosis experience no symptoms at all, while others may experience pain in the bones and muscles, particularly of the back. A person may experience fractures or broken bones (particularly of the hip and wrist) with very little to cause them. Some people develop humps in their upper back or experience shrinking height because of compression fractures in their backs. When symptoms are experienced, a person may have pain that comes on suddenly, does not radiate, gets worse when weight is put on the area, may be tender locally and generally begins to go away in a week. However, some pain may remain for three months or more.

Both men and women can get osteoporosis. In fact, a rare form of osteoporosis can occur in children and young adults of both genders. Postmenopausal osteoporosis tends to occur between the ages of 51 and 75. Although osteoporosis is six times more common in women, it can also occur in men with low levels of testosterone. Another type of osteoporosis is associated with the normal aging process. It usually occurs in people who are 60 or older, and it is twice as common in women as in men. Osteoporosis can also develop as a side effect of:

  • Endocrine diseases, including hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus
  • Drugs, including glucocorticosteroids, alcohol, tobacco, dilantin, barbiturates and heparin
  • Various conditions, including being immobilized, chronic kidney failure, liver disease, chronic obstructive lung disease and conditions in which vitamins and minerals are not absorbed properly

Not everyone gets osteoporosis, but as we age, it is more likely that we will experience some osteoporosis. Besides age and gender, certain things will make osteoporosis more likely, including:

  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Being less active
  • Not taking in enough calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Having your first period late and menopause early
  • Not bearing children
  • Drinking coffee or alcohol and smoking
  • Being Caucasian or Asian (Blacks and Hispanics have a higher bone mass than do Caucasians or Asians)