What is acromegaly?
Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder characterized by significant, abnormal growth, caused by an excess amount of growth hormone, or GH. GH is produced by the pituitary gland, specifically from noncancerous tumors on the pituitary, called adenomas.
Scientists estimate about 60 of every million people live with acromegaly. But acromegaly is not to be confused with gigantism. Acromegaly and gigantism are similar conditions, but gigantism occurs in children specifically, while acromegaly most often develops in adults who are middle-aged. If acromegaly goes untreated, the outcome may be serious illness and death.
What are acromegaly symptoms?
Acromegaly symptoms develop slowly, so it’s rare that the disease is diagnosed early. In fact, it’s not unusual for a misdiagnosis. Many people with acromegaly show abnormal growth in their appendages—the hands and feet grow bigger and appear disproportionate to the rest of the body. Initially, patients may find their rings or shoes fit more snug. As the disease progresses, patients will notice other distinct features, including an enlarged nasal bone and a protruding brow and lower jaw. Further indications of acromegaly are: thick, course, oily skin that’s prone to excessive sweating, enlarged facial features, like the nose, lips, tongue, and vocal cords, and joint aches. Organs within the body may also enlarge.
Are there acromegaly treatment options available?
Acromegaly is often diagnosed through blood tests and an MRI to confirm. An MRI can determine the tumor size, it’s location in the body, and what treatment will prove most effective.
Acromegaly treatment might include surgery—the most prompt and effective option. However, surgery success rates depend on the level of GH the body releases and the location of the tumor.
If surgery does not cure the acromegaly symptoms, doctors may prescribe different medications, including: somatostatin analogs (SSAs), GH receptor antagonists (GHRAs), and dopamine agonists.
Depending on the specifics of the condition, your acromegaly treatment regime should be individualized with the help of your doctor.