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Br J Rheumatol. 1996 Apr;35(4):350-6.

Anterior pituitary function in patients with newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Vienna, Austria.


Hormonal dysfunction involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, prolactin (PRL) secretion and sex hormone status has been supposed to contribute to the development or persistence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In addition, a reduced number of glucocorticoid receptors on circulating lymphocytes has been found in patients with RA. However, so far most studies have been performed in pre-treated patients. A combined test for total anterior pituitary reserve was performed in 10 patients with newly diagnosed untreated RA. Before and after stimulation with the respective hypothalamic releasing hormones, RA patients showed no difference in plasma concentrations of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, prolactin (PRL) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) when compared to healthy controls. In contrast, the growth hormone (GH) response to growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) was blunted in RA patients. The hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid/gonadal and adrenal axes seem to be unaltered in RA. However, if one considers the presence of chronic inflammation, normal plasma ACTH and cortisol concentrations must be considered as inappropriately low. The observed blunted GH release could be mediated by cytokines (e.g. IL-1), which are known to be elevated in RA.

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