Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder that occurs when the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, produces excessive growth hormone (GH).
This excess GH leads to the abnormal growth of bones and tissues in the body, primarily affecting the extremities (hands and feet), facial features, and several internal organs.
The main causes of acromegaly are benign tumors of the pituitary gland called adenomas.
These tumors lead to an overproduction of GH.
In some cases, excess GH can also be caused by tumors in other parts of the body, such as the pancreas or lungs.
Common signs and symptoms of acromegaly may include:
Enlarged hands and feet:
This is often one of the most noticeable and characteristic features of the condition.
Coarse facial features:
Individuals with acromegaly may develop a larger jaw, enlarged nose, and thicker lips.
The growth of bone and tissue can lead to joint pain and limited joint mobility.
Carpal tunnel syndrome:
Excess tissue growth can compress the nerves in the wrist, leading to symptoms like numbness and tingling in the hands.
Sweating and oily skin:
Increased GH can lead to excessive sweating and oily skin.
Enlarged internal organs:
The condition can affect the heart, liver, and other organs, potentially causing complications.
The soft tissues in the throat may enlarge, leading to breathing difficulties during sleep.
Diagnosis typically involves blood tests to measure GH and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels, as well as imaging studies like MRI to locate any pituitary tumors.
Treatment options for acromegaly include:
The primary treatment is often transsphenoidal surgery, which involves removing the pituitary tumor through the nose or upper lip.
If surgery is not completely successful or if the tumor cannot be removed safely, radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor.
Somatostatin analogs and growth hormone receptor antagonists can be used to lower GH and IGF-1 levels.
Acromegaly is a chronic condition that requires long-term management and monitoring. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems.
Early diagnosis and treatment are important for controlling the symptoms and preventing complications. Patients with acromegaly often work closely with endocrinologists and other healthcare professionals to manage their condition.