Acromegaly

Definition

Acromegaly is a condition in which there is too much growth hormone (GH) in the body.

Causes

Acromegaly is a rare condition. It is caused when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone. The pituitary gland is a small endocrine gland attached to the bottom of the brain. It controls, makes, and releases several hormones, including growth hormone.

Usually a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland releases too much growth hormone. In rare cases, pituitary tumors can be inherited.

In children, too much GH causes gigantism rather than acromegaly.

Symptoms

Symptoms of acromegaly may include any of the following:

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms.

The following tests may be ordered to confirm diagnosis of acromegaly and check for complications:

Other tests may be ordered to check whether the rest of the pituitary gland is working normally.

Treatment

Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor that is causing this condition often corrects the abnormal GH. Sometimes, the tumor is too large to be removed completely and acromegaly is not cured. In this case, medicines and radiation (radiotherapy) may be used to treat acromegaly.

Some people with tumors that are too complicated to remove by surgery are treated with medicines instead of surgery. These medicines may block the production of GH from the pituitary gland or prevent the action of GH in other parts of the body.

After treatment, you will need to see your provider regularly to make sure that the pituitary gland is working normally and that acromegaly does not come back. Yearly evaluations are recommended.

Support Groups

These resources may provide further information on acromegaly:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Pituitary surgery is successful in most people, depending on the size of the tumor and the experience of the neurosurgeon with pituitary tumors.

Without treatment, the symptoms will get worse. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease may result.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Prevention

Acromegaly cannot be prevented. Early treatment may prevent the disease from getting worse and help avoid complications.


Review Date: 5/6/2019
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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