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For more than 20 years, Katie Hughes puzzled over the cause of her relentless barrage of crippling symptoms.
Heart palpitations, sudden weight gain, nausea and depression dogged her life from her late teens to her early 40s.
Mystery - Illness - Hair - Fall - Way
The mystery illness even made her hair fall out. Along the way, doctors blamed her lingering health issues on everything from her four pregnancies to Katie ‘making a fuss’.
So when the 49-year-old freelance writer from Cornwall was finally told that all her problems were caused by a fault in a tiny pea-sized bit of tissue deep inside her skull – called the pituitary gland – she was overwhelmed with relief.
And this malfunction, it turns out, may not have occurred randomly.
It could, doctors suspect, be linked to an innocuous bump to the head in childhood that at the time both she and her parents deemed insignificant.
Kidney - Bean - Supply - Hormones - Body
The pituitary, shaped like a kidney bean, regulates the supply of vital hormones that help to keep the body functioning properly.
If it is damaged or malfunctions, it can trigger chemical imbalances that can lead to everything from chronic fatigue and unplanned weight loss to premature ageing and loss of libido or infertility.
Consequences - Gland - Release - Hormone - Testosterone
This can have devastating consequences, as the pituitary gland not only manages the release of the hormone testosterone – vital for healthy muscles, bones, heart and libido – but also controls the release of other essential hormones, such as cortisol, which controls alertness.
The condition, known as hypopituitarism, has gone largely unrecognised for decades, with doctors blaming symptoms on a range of other factors.
Thanks - Part - Efforts - Woman - Oxford
But thanks in part to the extraordinary efforts of one woman – Oxford graduate and former teacher Joanna Lane – the number of people getting a proper diagnosis of hypopituitarism, and the treatment they need to overcome it, has soared.
In 2007 there were...
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