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.
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.
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:
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.
Symptoms of acromegaly often show up very slowly, over many years. This makes it hard to diagnose.
Doctors who suspect acromegaly may order these tests to diagnose the condition:
There are several treatment options for acromegaly. Your doctor will consider your symptoms and circumstances before deciding which treatment(s) are right for you.
The most common treatments for acromegaly are surgery, medication and radiation therapy:
In some cases, a person may take medication until a tumor has shrunk. This can allow doctors to safely remove it with surgery. Other people may need to take medication long-term to effectively manage growth hormone levels and symptoms.
Acromegaly can’t be prevented. Early diagnosis and treatment is the most effective way to treat or manage acromegaly.
Outcomes for people with acromegaly depend on how severe the disease is and how effectively therapies treat the symptoms. Many people see a significant improvement in symptoms after treatment.
If it is not treated, acromegaly can cause disabling and disfiguring symptoms. These symptoms can greatly affect the person’s self-image and quality of life. Support groups help some people deal with the challenges they face because of acromegaly.
Health complications such as heart disease or Type 2 diabetes can also decrease quality of life and even shorten the lifespan. In the most severe cases, these complications can cause life-changing effects.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 03/16/2018