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Empty Sella Syndrome

What Is Empty Sella Syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome is a rare defect of the small, bony structure at the base of your brain. This structure (sella turcica) protects your pituitary gland, which controls important hormones in your body.

If the sella turcica is defective, spinal fluid from your brain can leak into it. Fluid buildup can flatten or shrink your pituitary gland – a condition known as empty sella syndrome (ESS) because the sella turcica appears empty on an MRI scan.

Other causes of a flattened or small pituitary gland include surgery, radiation or head injury. These are called secondary ESS.


Empty sella syndrome often has no symptoms. It rarely causes serious symptoms. The condition usually occurs in middle-aged women who are overweight and have high blood pressure. It can also happen if your pituitary gland is damaged by surgery, radiation therapy or a tumor.

Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Leaking of fluid from nose (rare)
  • Vision problems (rare)

Your pituitary gland makes many hormones that control other glands in the body, including adrenal glands, thyroid and reproductive organs. A pituitary gland disorder can cause problems with any of these glands, including abnormal hormone levels causing symptoms such as menstrual irregularities and sexual dysfunction or bruising and muscle weakness.

Treatment Options

Empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t cause symptoms and may not require treatment. If you have symptoms, treatment will focus on your specific symptoms or related conditions, such as a tumor. In addition to clinical evaluation, your doctor can use specialized imaging such as CT scanning or MRI to check for abnormalities.

If your pituitary gland is affected, you may need hormone replacement therapy. If you have a tumor or if cerebrospinal fluid leaks from the nose, you may need surgery.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of empty sella syndrome, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat empty sella syndrome.