Acromegaly Symptoms & Signs

Overview

Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that develops when your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood. When you have too much growth hormone, your bones increase in size. In childhood, this leads to increased height and is called gigantism. But in adulthood, a change in height doesn’t occur. Instead, the increase in bone size is limited to the bones of your hands, feet and face, and is called acromegaly.

Because acromegaly is uncommon and the physical changes occur slowly over many years, the condition sometimes takes a long time to recognize. Untreated, high levels of growth hormone can affect other parts of the body, in addition to your bones. This can lead to serious — sometimes even life-threatening — health problems. But treatment can reduce your risk of complications and significantly improve your symptoms, including the enlargement of your features.

Acromegaly

Acromegaly is a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone, causing body tissues and bones to grow more quickly. Over time, this leads to abnormally large hands and feet, and a wide range of other symptoms.

Acromegaly is usually diagnosed in adults aged 30 to 50, but it can affect people of any age. When it develops before the end of puberty, it’s known as “gigantism”.

What is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a rare but serious condition caused by too much growth hormone (GH) in the blood. GH is released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. The blood carries GH to other parts of the body where it has specific effects. In children, GH stimulates growth and development. In adults, GH affects energy levels, muscle strength, bone health, and one’s sense of well-being. Too much GH in children is called gigantism and is extremely rare. Acromegaly in adults occurs mainly in middle-aged men and women. Acromegaly is a very rare condition.

  • Acromegaly is a disorder that happens when your body makes too much growth hormone (GH). It causes abnormal growth that usually starts in your hands and feet.
  • GH stimulates growth and development in children. In adults, GH affects energy levels, muscle strength, bone health, and one’s sense of well-being.
  • Most people who get acromegaly are middle-aged. Children can have problems with too much growth hormone — a condition called gigantism.
  • There are treatments for acromegaly, and every case is different. In most cases, it might be years before you notice symptoms.

How Common is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is rare. Scientists estimate that about 3 to 14 of every 100,000 people have been diagnosed as having acromegaly.

Who is more Likely to Develop Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is most often diagnosed in middle-aged adults, but symptoms can appear at any age. In children, too much growth hormone causes a condition called gigantism NIH external link rather than acromegaly. Gigantism occurs when excess GH begins before the end of puberty when children’s growth plates fuse or close. Having too much GH before the growth plates close causes children to grow tall in height.

What Are the Symptoms of Acromegaly?

The symptoms of acromegaly can be difficult to detect since they usually develop slowly over time. For example, you may notice over a period of several months that you have a ring that feels increasingly tight on your finger, and one day it no longer fits. You may also find that you need to go up a size in shoes if you have this condition.

Common symptoms of acromegaly are:

  • enlarged bones in the face, feet, and hands
  • excessive hair growth in women
  • an enlarged jaw or tongue
  • a prominent brow
  • excessive growth spurts, which are more common in people who’ve had abnormal growth before adolescence
  • weight gain
  • swollen and painful joints that limit movement
  • spaces between the teeth
  • splayed fingers and toes
  • a hoarse, deep voice
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • an inability to sleep
  • muscle weakness
  • profuse sweating
  • body odor
  • enlarged sebaceous glands, which are glands that produce oils in the skin
  • thickened skin
  • skin tags, which are noncancerous growths

The changes brought about by acromegaly take time to develop.

Changes in physical appearance can be dramatic. They include:

  • a large jaw and tongue
  • gaps between the teeth
  • a more prominent brow
  • swollen hands
  • large feet
  • rough and oily skin
  • skin tags

Other changes include:

  • tingling and lack of sensation in the hands and feet
  • heavy sweating
  • headaches
  • a deeper voice
  • impaired vision
  • There may also be enlargement of the internal organs, including the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys.
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