Empty Sella Syndrome

What is empty sella syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome (ESS) is a
rare disorder that affects a structure in the skull called the sella turcica. This is a
bony structure at the base of the brain. It is where the pituitary gland is located.
With ESS, imaging tests show that the area looks larger than normal. And it is not
completely filled by the pituitary gland.

There are 2 types of ESS: primary
and secondary.

  • Primary ESS. The pituitary gland is
    usually flattened. This type is more common in women who are obese and have high
    blood pressure. It has also been linked to fluid buildup in the brain. 
  • Secondary ESS. The pituitary gland
    may be small because of a genetic change (mutation), injury, radiation therapy,
    inflammation (hypophysitis), or surgery.

What causes empty sella syndrome?

Experts don’t know what causes
primary ESS. Secondary ESS may be caused by injury, radiation therapy, or surgery. ESS
is not a life-threatening illness. Only about 1 in 4 people known to have empty sella
syndrome have a primary hormone disturbance.

What are the symptoms of empty sella syndrome?

You may not have any symptoms. If
symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Headaches
  • Impotence in men
  • Less desire for sex
  • Irregular menstrual periods in women
  • Early puberty in children

Symptoms vary from person to
person. They also depend on your age and what caused the syndrome. Symptoms may look
like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is empty sella syndrome diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history and do a physical exam. You may also need these tests:

  • CT scan. This test uses X-rays and a
    computer to make images of your body. It helps find any problems.
  • MRI. This test uses large magnets,
    radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures in your
    body.