Learn About Acromegaly

What is the definition of Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a condition in which there is too much growth hormone (GH) in the body.

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What are the alternative names for Acromegaly?

Somatotroph adenoma; Growth hormone excess; Growth hormone secreting pituitary adenoma; Pituitary giant (in childhood)

What are the causes of Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a rare condition. It is caused when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone. The pituitary gland is a small endocrine gland attached to the bottom of the brain. It controls, makes, and releases several hormones, including growth hormone.

Usually, a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland releases too much growth hormone. In rare cases, pituitary tumors can be inherited.

In children, too much GH causes gigantism rather than acromegaly.

What are the symptoms of Acromegaly?

Symptoms of acromegaly may include any of the following:

  • Body odor
  • Blood in the stool
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Decreased muscle strength (weakness)
  • Decreased peripheral vision
  • Dental problems, gaps between the teeth
  • Easy fatigue
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Excessive height (when excess GH production begins in childhood)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Heart enlargement, which can cause fainting
  • Hoarseness
  • Jaw pain
  • Joint pain, limited joint movement, swelling of the bony areas around a joint
  • Large bones of the face, large jaw and tongue, widely spaced teeth
  • Large feet (change in shoe size), large hands (change in ring or glove size)
  • Large glands in the skin (sebaceous glands) causing oily skin, thickening of the skin, skin tags (growths)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Widened fingers or toes, with swelling, redness, and pain

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Colon polyps
  • Excess hair growth in females (hirsutism)
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Thyroid enlargement
  • Weight gain
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What are the current treatments for Acromegaly?

Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor that is causing this condition often corrects the abnormal GH. Sometimes, the tumor is too large to be removed completely and acromegaly is not cured. In this case, medicines and radiation (radiotherapy) may be used to treat acromegaly.

Some people with tumors that are too complicated to remove by surgery are treated with medicines instead of surgery. These medicines may block the production of GH from the pituitary gland or prevent the action of GH in other parts of the body.

After treatment, you will need to see your provider regularly to make sure that the pituitary gland is working normally and that acromegaly does not come back. Yearly evaluations are recommended.

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What are the support groups for Acromegaly?

More information and support for people with acromegaly and their families can be found at:

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases -- www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/acromegaly
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders -- rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/acromegaly/
What is the outlook (prognosis) for Acromegaly?

Pituitary surgery is successful in most people, depending on the size of the tumor and the experience of the neurosurgeon with pituitary tumors.

Without treatment, the symptoms will get worse. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease may result.

When should I contact a medical professional for Acromegaly?

Call your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of acromegaly
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment
How do I prevent Acromegaly?

Acromegaly cannot be prevented. Early treatment may prevent the disease from getting worse and help to avoid complications.

Endocrine glands
What are the latest Acromegaly Clinical Trials?
A Clinical and Genetic Investigation of Pituitary and HYPOTHALAMIC Tumors and Related Disorders

Summary: There is a variety of tumors affecting the pituitary gland in childhood; some of these tumors (eg craniopharyngioma) are included among the most common central nervous system tumors in childhood. The gene(s) involved in the pathogenesis of these tumors are largely not known; their possible association with other developmental defects or inheritance pattern(s) has not been investigated. The present...

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Real-World Study of Lanreotide Autogel for the Treatment of Patients With Acromegaly in China

Summary: This study aims to assess the one-year effectiveness and safety of LAN among patients with acromegaly in China in routine clinical practice. In addition, the study is designed to understand the real-world treatment patterns and outcomes of LAN among Chinese patients with acromegaly.

What are the Latest Advances for Acromegaly?
Pegvisomant in the treatment of acromegaly.
Durable biochemical response and safety with oral octreotide capsules in acromegaly.
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Surgery for acromegaly: Indications and goals.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: May 13, 2021
Published By: Brent Wisse, MD, Board Certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Endocrine diseases. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 24.

Katznelson L, Laws ER Jr, Melmed S, et al. Acromegaly: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99(11):3933-3951. PMID: 25356808 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25356808/.

Klein I, Biondi B. Endocrine disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 92.

Melmed S. Acromegaly. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 12.