Apoplexy is bleeding into a cavity or organ. There are various forms of apoplexy, including adrenal apoplexy (ie, bleeding into adrenal glands) and pituitary apoplexy (ie, bleeding into the pituitary gland).

Pituitary Gland

Pituitary Gland Male

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Apoplexy may be caused by:

  • Expansion of a tumor
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Blood clot
  • Limited venous drainage
  • Acute illness
  • Drastic changes in blood volume or blood pressure
  • Blood coagulation disorders

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of developing apoplexy. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Hormonal insufficiency
  • Previous surgery
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Injury


If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to apoplexy. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of vision
  • Double vision
  • Altered mental status
  • Pain
  • Fatigue


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

Abdominal Ultrasound

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Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Once you have been stabilized, treatment options include the following, depending on the cause and location of your apoplexy:

  • Medications—Corticosteroids or hormonal therapies may be used to correct hormonal imbalances.
  • Surgery—If the apoplexy was caused by a tumor, the tumor may be surgically removed.


There is no known way to prevent apoplexy.


The Hormone Foundation

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Canadian Institute for Health Information

Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Adrenal hemorrhage . Emedicine website. Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic3009.htm . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Apoplexy. Merriam-Webster website. Available at: http://www2.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/mwmednlm?book=Medical&va=apoplexy . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Pituitary apoplexy. University of California, Los Angeles website. Available at: http://pituitary.ucla.edu/Pituitary/PituitaryDis_14.html . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Last reviewed February 2008 by Jill Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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