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Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that usually affects middle aged adults. Acromegaly is the result of excessive production of Growth Hormone (GH) from the pituitary gland. In children it can result in Gigantism - unusual bone growth and consequent unusual height. Acromegaly is characterized by enlarged hands, feet and face (lips, tongue and nose). Acromegaly can affect heart and bones also.

Acromegaly Causes

The hands and feet are over sized when the body makes elevated amounts of growth hormone due to a benign tumor in the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. The elevated levels cause an excess of bone and tissue growth.

Acromegaly symptoms

The most noticeable symptom is an over-sized finger necessitating the ring if worn, to be removed. Hitherto fitting shoe may seem unfitting due to an increased shoe width. Noticeable change in the face is a swollen/larger/broader lip, tongue and nose. Other symptoms may include one or a combination of the following.

  • Weight gain
  • Swollen and painful joints that restrict movement
  • Spaces appearing between teeth
  • Hoarse voice
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Inability to sleep
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Body odor due to enlargement of sweat glands
  • Enlarged sebaceous glands that make skin oily
  • Severe acne
  • Severe snoring
  • Impaired vision
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities in women
  • Abnormal breast milk production in women
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Increased chest size
  • Non-cancerous thickened skin and skin tags.

Acromegaly diagnosis

The physical changes occur gradually and are often not recognized immediately. There are instances when individuals recognize symptoms after comparing old photographs. Awareness is the key to seeking medical attention. If any of the symptoms persists for more than few weeks, seek medical attention. An early diagnosis can avert severe health complications.

Doctors proceed to laboratory tests after discussing medical history followed by physical examination. Blood tests are done to confirm diagnosis. To assess the size and location of the tumor, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain or a Computerized Tomography (CT scan) is required.

Instead of checking random levels of hormones which vary minute to minute, doctors recommend testing for protein called insulin like growth factor 1 or IGF-1 which indicate the presence of abnormal body growth.

Another definitive diagnosis method is the growth hormone suppression test. Blood levels of growth hormone before and after drinking a preparation of glucose is measured. If the test shows high GH level, it confirms Acromegaly.

Acromegaly Treatment

Medications, surgery and radiation are suggested depending on the age and health condition of the individual. The aim is to restrict the excessive production of hormones and improve problems caused by the condition. Doctors prescribe medicines for treatment after surgery or in cases where surgery cannot be performed. Surgery is performed to remove the tumor if it is not too large. In cases where medicines and surgery do not treat the condition, radiotherapy (stereotactic radio surgery or conventional radio therapy) that eventually leads to reduction in growth hormones is recommended.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 11, 2017