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About empty sella turcica

What is empty sella turcica?

Empty sella syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by enlargement or malformation of a structure in the head known as the sella turcica. The sella turcica is a saddle-shaped depression located in the bone at the base of skull (sphenoid bone), in which resides the pituitary gland. In empty sella syndrome, the malformed sella turcica is often either partially or completely filled with cerebrospinal fluid. As a result, the pituitary gland is often compressed and flattened so that the sella turcica appears empty. Most individuals with empty sella syndrome do not have any associated symptoms. Occasionally, headaches or pituitary dysfunction may occur. Empty sella syndrome may occur as a primary disorder, for which the cause is unknown (idiopathic), or as a secondary disorder, in which it occurs due to an underlying condition or disorder such as a pituitary tumor or trauma in the pituitary region.

What are the symptoms for empty sella turcica?

Empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t have any symptoms. However, if you have secondary empty sella syndrome, you may have symptoms related to the condition that’s causing it.

Many people with empty sella syndrome also have chronic headaches. Doctors aren’t sure if this is related to empty sella syndrome or to high blood pressure, which many people with empty sella syndrome also have.

In rare cases, empty sella syndrome is associated with pressure building up in the skull, which can lead to:

  • spinal fluid leaking from the nose
  • swelling of the optic nerve inside the eye
  • vision problems

What are the causes for empty sella turcica?

Primary empty sella syndrome

The exact cause of primary empty sella syndrome isn’t clear. It may be related to a birth defect in the diaphragma sellae, a membrane that covers the sella turcica. Some people are born with a small tear in the diaphragma sellae, which can cause CSF to leak into the sella turcica. Doctors aren’t sure whether this is a direct cause of empty sella syndrome or simply a risk factor.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, empty sella syndrome affects about four times as many women as it does men. Most women with empty sella syndrome tend to be middle-aged, obese, and have high blood pressure. However, most cases of empty sella syndrome go undiagnosed due to their lack of symptoms, so it’s hard to say whether gender, obesity, age, or blood pressure are true risk factors.

What are the treatments for empty sella turcica?

Empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t require treatment unless it’s producing symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may need:

  • surgery to prevent CSF from leaking out of your nose
  • medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), for headache relief

If you have secondary empty sella syndrome due to an underlying condition, your doctor will focus on treating that condition or managing its symptoms.

What are the risk factors for empty sella turcica?

  • head trauma
  • infection
  • pituitary tumors
  • radiation therapy or surgery in the area of the pituitary gland
  • conditions related to the brain or pituitary gland, such as Sheehan syndrome, intracranial hypertension, neurosarcoidosis, or hypophysitis

Is there a cure/medications for empty sella turcica?

On its own, empty sella syndrome usually doesn’t have any symptoms or negative effects on your overall health. If you have secondary empty sella syndrome, work with your doctor to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

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