MediFind
Condition

Acromegaly

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Acromegaly?

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

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 for 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 for 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
  • Easy fatigue
  • 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

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.

What are the support groups for Acromegaly?

These resources may provide further information on acromegaly: 

  • 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 avoid complications.

Endocrine

REFERENCES

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 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25356808.

Klein I. Endocrine disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 81.

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.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Acromegaly
  • Journal: BMC endocrine disorders
  • Treatment Used: Somatostatin Analogues (SAs) with Pegvisomant
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This study evaluated the effectiveness of combined therapy with somatostatin analogues (drugs that block the extra release of hormones) with pegvisomant for the treatment of acromegaly (when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood).
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Pituitary Adenomas
  • Journal: Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America
  • Treatment Used: Dopamine Agonists
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses the role of dopamine agonists in the treatment of pituitary adenoma.