When the pituitary gland overproduces growth hormone (GH), its usually because a pituitary adenoma has formed. An adenoma is a benign tumor that causes the patient to continue to grow. Hands and feet become larger, the jawline can extend, and the nose and forehead can also enlarge.
Acromegaly complications can include:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- sleep apnea (or the sudden cessation of breathing while asleep)
If this occurs during childhood, gigantism can result. Only six in 100,000 people receive the diagnosis of acromegaly, so it’s definitely in the rare disease category. And because the symptoms are so gradual, it’s often misdiagnosed.
So, how is acromegaly diagnosed correctly?
Through a blood test, and then magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary gland is used to locate and detect the size of the tumor causing GH overproduction.
Heart disease is one of the more frequent complications of acromegaly because the heart has to work harder to pump blood. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also something many people with this condition experience as the bones in the wrists continue to grow.
Most frequently, surgery to remove the adenoma can help stem the production of GH and relieve symptoms, but not in every case.
Depending upon the complexity of the adenoma, sometimes the entire mass can’t be removed and the symptoms continue.
If you have acromegaly, or know someone who does, the following organizations may be of help:
- The Neuroendocrine Clinical Center
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK)
- Acromegaly Community
- Hormones 411
- National Organization for Rare Disorders