What is Acromegaly?

Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder that affects adults when the pituitary gland produces an excess of growth hormone. This surplus hormone leads to an abnormal growth of bones, particularly in the hands, feet, and face, without any significant increase in height.

While the condition is uncommon and its physical changes develop slowly over time, untreated acromegaly can lead to severe health complications, some of which can be life-threatening.

However, timely recognition and appropriate treatment can significantly improve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disorder.

Symptoms of Acromegaly

One of the key signs of acromegaly is the enlargement of certain body parts, particularly the hands, feet, and face. People with this condition may notice that their rings are no longer fit or that their shoe size has increased progressively over time.

Facial changes, such as a protruding lower jaw, brow bone, enlarged nose, thickened lips, and widened spacing between teeth, are also common. Other symptoms include:

  • Coarse, oily, thickened skin

  • Excessive sweating and body odor

  • Skin tags

  • Fatigue and muscle weakness

  • Joint pain and limited mobility

  • Deepened voice and severe snoring

  • Vision problems and headaches

  • Menstrual irregularities in women

  • Erectile dysfunction in men

As acromegaly progresses slowly, individuals may not notice these changes immediately, often only realising them when comparing old and new photos. Therefore, it's crucial to be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if they arise.

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Causes and Risk Factors

Acromegaly occurs when there is prolonged overproduction of growth hormone, primarily due to a tumour affecting the pituitary gland. Pituitary tumours, usually benign, are the leading cause of acromegaly.

These tumours secrete excessive amounts of GH, leading to the characteristic symptoms of the condition.

Rare genetic conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1), increase the risk of developing acromegaly. In MEN 1, tumours develop in various endocrine glands, including the pituitary gland, triggering hormone imbalances that can lead to acromegaly.

Complications of Acromegaly

Untreated acromegaly can result in severe health complications, including high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and an increased risk of certain cancers.

Moreover, acromegaly can lead to sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep), carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal cord compression, and vision changes, among other issues.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent or mitigate these complications and improve long-term outcomes.

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Diagnosis and Management

Diagnosing acromegaly typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and hormone level testing. Additional tests, such as echocardiograms, sleep studies, colonoscopies, and imaging scans, may be conducted to assess the extent of the condition and identify potential complications.

Treatment options for acromegaly aim to reduce growth hormone levels, shrink tumours, and alleviate symptoms. Depending on the individual's circumstances, treatment may involve medications, surgery to remove the tumor, or radiation therapy.

Regular monitoring and follow-up care are essential to assess treatment effectiveness and manage any residual symptoms or complications.

In conclusion, acromegaly is a complex hormonal disorder characterised by the overproduction of growth hormones, primarily caused by pituitary tumours. Early recognition of symptoms, prompt diagnosis, and appropriate treatment are crucial for preventing complications and improving the quality of life for individuals with acromegaly.

With proper medical management, many individuals with acromegaly can lead fulfilling lives and avoid serious health consequences. If you suspect you may have acromegaly or are experiencing related symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for evaluation and guidance.

The information provided on this platform is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
The authors and creators of this platform do not endorse or recommend any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.
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