Acromegaly – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is acromegaly?
Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that is caused by too much growth hormone (GH) in the body. This disorder occurs when the pituitary gland produces an excess amount of growth hormone.
Acromegaly is a rare condition and mostly affects middle-aged people of both sexes. It can also affect children.
What causes acromegaly?
Acromegaly is caused when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone. The pituitary gland is a small endocrine gland attached to the bottom of the brain. It creates, controls, and releases several hormones, including growth hormone. This condition is usually caused by releases of too much growth hormone by a benign (noncancerous) tumor of the pituitary gland.
What are the symptoms of acromegaly?
Any of the following symptoms may occur with acromegaly:
- Large bones of the face, large jaw, and tongue, widely spaced teeth
- Large feet (change in shoe size), large hands (change in ring or glove size)
- Widened fingers or toes, with swelling, redness, and pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Heart enlargement, which can cause fainting
- Body odor
- Blood in the stool
- Decreased muscle strength (weakness)
- Decreased peripheral vision
- Easy fatigue
- Excessive height (if the disorder begins in childhood)
- Excessive sweating
- Joint pain, limited joint movement, swelling of the bony areas around a joint
- Large glands in the skin (sebaceous glands) causing oily skin, thickening of the skin, skin tags (growths)
- Sleep apnea
The following other symptoms may occur with acromegaly:
- Thyroid enlargement
- Weight gain
- Colon polyps
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth in females)
- High blood pressure
- Type-2 diabetes
How is acromegaly diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review your symptoms. The following tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis:
- Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
- Blood glucose
- Growth hormone level
- Growth hormone suppression test
- Spine x-ray
- MRI of the brain, including the pituitary gland
How is acromegaly treated?
Treatment of acromegaly aims to correct the abnormally high level of growth hormone. Treatment may include surgery, medicines, or radiotherapy.
Your doctor may remove the pituitary tumor by surgery. This will correct the abnormal GH. Acromegaly will not be cured if the tumor is not removed completely.
If the tumor is too large to be removed completely by surgery, the doctor may use medicines and radiation (radiotherapy) to treat acromegaly.
The doctor may treat the problem with medicines if the tumor is too complicated to remove by surgery.
The doctor may recommend regular follow-up to make sure that the pituitary gland is working normally. This will enable the doctor to monitor and take appropriate action if acromegaly comes back. Usually, yearly follow-up is recommended.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.