Patient Story: Tallest Man in the World Attributes Height to Pituitary Gigantism

 

A recent article highlighted the story of the world’s tallest man Sultan Kösen, in which it was revealed his growth is attributed to pituitary gigantism.

Pituitary Gigantism

Gigantism, also called pediatric acromegaly and pituitary gigantism, is a very rare condition that happens when a child or adolescent has high levels of growth hormone (GH) in their body, which causes them to grow very tall. The pituitary gland normally produces GH, but a tumor on their pituitary can produce excess GH.

In gigantism, the excessive amount of GH accelerates the growth of muscle, bones and connective tissue. This leads to an abnormally increased height as well as several soft tissue changes. When left untreated or uncontrolled, some people with gigantism have grown over 8 feet tall.

Symptoms:

Aside from being very tall/large for their age, physical characteristics of gigantism include:

  • Very prominent forehead and a prominent jaw.
  • Gaps between their teeth.
  • Thickening of their facial features.
  • Large hands and feet with thick fingers and toes.

Other symptoms of gigantism include:

 

The Journey to Becoming the World’s Tallest Man

Turkish farmer Sultan Kösen currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest living male. He stands at 8 feet 2.82 inches (251 centimeters). In addition, Kösen is the sixth tallest man recorded in history. However, his journey to becoming the world’s tallest man was not easy, as it is due to gigantism and a cancer affecting his pituitary gland. In fact, Kösen must use crutches in order to walk.

It was not until Sultan Kösen was 10 years old that he started to grow rapidly. His family, all of whom are average height, were shocked at his incredible growth. For young Kösen, however, the growth made him unable to continue his studies at school and he never graduated. As a result, he decided to become a farmer and help support his family.

 

Living with His Condition

Back in 2010, Kösen started getting a treatment called Gamma knife for his pituitary tumor at the University of Virginia Medical School. He was also prescribed medications that regulates the high levels of GH in his body.

Kösen has stated there are pros and cons to his height. Some of the aspects of being tall he enjoys includes being able to see long distances and having an easier time doing housework such as hanging drapes and changing lightbulbs. He is happy to be able to help his mother do simple everyday tasks that are easier for him due to his height. On the other hand, the hardships that come with being tall are struggling to get clothes and shoes that fit right and fitting into a basic car.

It took years for Sultan Kösen to adapt to his life as the world’s tallest man, but now he is living a fulfilling and happy life. His treatment helps keep his GH managed and he is able to get around using his crutches. In fact, Kösen has actually landed a role in Hollywood in a film called “Achieving the Impossible.”

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