What is acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a rare but serious medical condition that occurs when the body produces high levels of growth hormone. Acromegaly can occur at any age, but is often diagnosed in middle age.

Acromegaly is rare, affecting around 1 in every 200,000 people. The condition affects men and women equally.

What causes acromegaly?

A benign (noncancerous) tumor that produces too much growth hormone, called an adenoma, is the cause of acromegaly. The adenoma is in the pituitary, a tiny gland located near the bottom of the brain. The pituitary regulates how the body makes several hormones, in addition to growth hormone.

What are the symptoms of acromegaly?

Acromegaly affects the body’s bones and tissues and causes them to grow in abnormal ways. In children, acromegaly causes gigantism (unusual growth). When a child or young adult has too much growth hormone in his or her body, gigantism can cause their bones to grow at an increased rate. Some people with gigantism reach 8 feet tall.

Adults with acromegaly do not grow tall, but may have the following symptoms:

  • Enlarged or swollen body parts, such as the hands, feet or chest
  • Changes in the face, including a prominent jaw, nose or forehead
  • Excessive sweating or oily skin
  • Numbness or “pins and needles” in the hands
  • Joint pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome or spinal cord problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headaches
  • Sleep apnea, a condition that causes the body to stop breathing for short bursts of time during sleep
  • Changes in vision or voice

Acromegaly symptoms often start slowly and may be difficult to notice at first. Some people only notice their hands have grown in size when their wedding ring feels tight.

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