Empty Sella Syndrome


Fact: Empty Sella Syndrome is commonly found in individuals with Intracranial Hypertension

What is Empty Sella Syndrome?

Empty sella syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by enlargement or malformation of a bone structure the lower portion of the skull known as the sella turcica. This saddle-shaped bone / depression where the pituitary gland is located and is where the pituitary gland is protected. In empty sella syndrome, the malformed bone is many times 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.

How does ESS happen?

Primary empty sella syndrome occurs when one of the layers covering the outside of the brain bulges down into the sella and presses on the pituitary.

Secondary empty sella syndrome occurs when the sella is empty because the pituitary gland has been damaged by:

  • A tumor
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

ESS can also be seen in a secondary condition called Intracranial Hypertension, also known as Pseudotumor Cerebri.

How is Empty Sella Syndrome diagnosed?

Because symptoms do not strongly present, most times ESS is diagnosed through one of the following:
  • X-ray
  • CT (CAT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

What are the symptoms of ESS?

Empty Sella is usually a coincidental finding as it has been found to be associated with other diseases or disorders. 

A symptom of Empty Sella Syndrome is a chronically runny nose.

A small amount of the population may experience symptoms that can include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Irregular or absent menstruation
  • Low sexual desire
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Nipple discharge
  • Loss of vision

Want to learn more?

The following are organizations and/or websites dedicated to providing information and education surrounding Empty Sella Syndrome. These organizations are dedicated to research, education, awareness, and/or support. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.

I Have IHH
Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Pituitary Network Association
The Pituatary Foundaton