Acromegaly is a syndrome that results when the anterior pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone (GH) after epiphyseal plate closure at puberty. The term acromegaly comes from Greek words meaning “extremities” and “enlargement.” Acromegaly occurs in about 6 of every 100,000 adults.
Acromegaly is a rare disease.
In the United States, the condition is newly diagnosed in about 3-4 people per million per year. About 1 person per 20,000 is estimated to have acromegaly.
The most common age at diagnosis is 40-45 years, although it can affect any age.
The condition affects all ethnic groups and strikes men and women equally.
Acromegaly can occur in children. When it does, it is called gigantism (from the word for giant), because abnormal growth of the long bones of the arms and legs makes the child unusually tall.
Acromegaly is caused by the pituitary gland overproducing growth hormone (GH) over time. The pituitary, a small gland situated at the base of your brain behind the bridge of your nose, produces a number of hormones. GH plays an important role in managing your physical growth.
Symptoms of Acromegaly
- Body odor
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Decreased muscle strength (weakness)
- Easy fatigue
- Excessive height (when excess growth hormone production begins in childhood)
- Excessive sweating
- Joint pain
- Large bones of the face
- Large feet
- Large hands
- Large glands in the skin (sebaceous glands)
- Large jaw (prognathism) and tongue
- Limited joint movement
- Sleep apnea
- Swelling of the bony areas around a joint
- Thickening of the skin, skin tags
- Widely spaced teeth
- Widened fingers or toes due to too much skin growth, with swelling, redness, and pain
Complications of Acromegaly
- Severe headache
- Arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Enlarged heart
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Colorectal cancer
- Compression of the optic chiasm leading to loss of vision in the outer visual fields (typically bitemporal hemianopia)
- Increased palmar sweating and sebum production over the face (seborrhea) are clinical indicators of active growth hormone (GH) producing pituitary tumors. These symptoms can also be used to monitor the activity of the tumor after surgery although biochemical monitoring is confirmatory.