Acromegaly

Introduction:

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
  • 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)

Causes:

The most common cause of acromegaly is a tumor. These tumors can be of two types:

Pituitary tumors:

These tumors are almost always non-cancerous and benign, called ‘adenomas’