Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder, due to excess secretion of growth hormone (GH) and occurs in middle-aged adults. This hormone in normally secreted by the ‘Pituitary’, a gland situated deep within the brain. Whenever there is increased secretion of GH, the clinical condition is called acromegaly (meaning enlarged extremities).
A similar excess occurring if occurring in childhood causes the condition ‘gigantism’.
Acromegaly is uncommon (3-4 per 100000 people). Physical changes occur so gradually that it is easy to miss the disease altogether in the initial stages.
Few initial (early) symptoms:
- Enlarged hands and feet.
- Shoes do not fit, rings on fingers become tight.
- Changes in facial features
- Protrusion of lower jaw
- Enlarged nose
- Thickened lips
- Teeth show wider spacing.
Signs & symptoms seen as the disorder progresses:
- 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
- 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)
The most common cause of acromegaly is a tumor. These tumors can be of two types:
These tumors are almost always non-cancerous and benign, called ‘adenomas’