Sheehan syndrome is a hormone condition commonly found in women following the delivery of a baby.
It is characterized by lactation problems following a very traumatic delivery where the woman may have lost a lot of blood and was in hemorrhagic shock, which damaged all or part of her anterior pituitary gland (thanks to www.gynaeonline.com for this link). As the prolactin secreting cells of the pituitary gland are often damaged, there is low prolactin and the breast tissue is not stimulated to produce milk even though the hypothalamus may have sent the right signals to turn prolactin secretion on. Other symptoms of the Sheehan syndrome are loss of pubic hair and axillary hair and a profound fatigue. This is due to low estrogen and low ACTH leading to Addison’s disease symptoms.
The pathologist would see an infarct in the cut pituitary gland, also called a pituitary apoplexy, of a woman who died from this disease. With special stains the pathologist can show that the hormone production in the area of the infarct had stopped.
This leads to the associated endocrinological defects. Using special more sophisticated hormone tests the endocrinologist must determine which of the hormones are missing. Based on these tests appropriate hormone replacement can be given for the rest of the woman’s life. In this day and age this is a condition that can be treated. In the past it was a deadly disease.
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