Acromegaly

Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that develops when your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood. When this happens, your bones increase in size, including those of your hands, feet and face. Acromegaly usually affects middle-aged adults.

In children who are still growing, too much growth hormone can cause a condition called gigantism. These children have exaggerated bone growth and an abnormal increase in height.

Because acromegaly is uncommon and physical changes occur gradually, the condition often isn't recognized immediately; sometimes not for years. If not treated promptly, acromegaly can lead to serious illness and even become life-threatening. However, available treatments for acromegaly can reduce your risk of complications and significantly improve your symptoms, including the enlargement of your features.


Symptoms Causes Complications

One of the most common signs of acromegaly is enlarged hands and feet. People with this disorder often notice that they can no longer put on rings that used to fit and that their shoe size has progressively increased.

Acromegaly may also cause you to experience gradual changes in the shape of your face, such as a protruding lower jaw and brow, an enlarged nose, thickened lips, and wider spacing between your teeth.

Because acromegaly tends to progress slowly, early signs may not be readily apparent for several years. Sometimes, people notice the condition only by comparing old photographs.

Acromegaly may produce the following signs and symptoms, which can vary from one person to another:

  • Enlarged hands and feet
  • Coarsened, enlarged facial features
  • Coarse, oily, thickened skin
  • Excessive sweating and body odor
  • Small outgrowths of skin tissue (skin tags)
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • A deepened, husky voice due to enlarged vocal cords and sinuses
  • Severe snoring due to obstruction of the upper airway
  • Impaired vision
  • Headaches
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Pain and limited joint mobility
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities in women
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Enlarged liver, heart, kidneys, spleen and other organs
  • Increased chest size (barrel chest)

When to see a doctor

If you have signs and symptoms associated with acromegaly, contact your doctor for an evaluation.

Acromegaly usually develops slowly, and even your family members may not initially notice the gradual physical changes that occur with this disorder. Early diagnosis is important, however, so that you can receive proper care. Acromegaly can lead to serious complications if it's not treated.

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