Navigate Up

Heart Center - A-Z Index

#
J
Q
X
Z

Print This Page

Acromegaly

Acromegaly is a long-term condition in which there is too much growth hormone and the body tissues get larger over time.

Alternative Names

Somatotroph adenoma; Growth hormone excess; Pituitary giant

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Acromegaly occurs in about 6 of every 100,000 adults. It is caused by abnormal production of growth hormone after the skeleton and other organs finish growing.

Excessive production of growth hormone in children causes gigantism rather than acromegaly.

The cause of the increased growth hormone release is usually a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, which is located just below the brain, controls the production and release of several different hormones, including growth hormone.

Symptoms

  • Body odor
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Decreased muscle strength (weakness )
  • Easy fatigue
  • Excessive height (when excess growth hormone production begins in childhood)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Joint pain
  • Large bones of the face
  • Large feet
  • Large hands
  • Large glands in the skin (sebaceous glands)
  • Large jaw (prognathism) and tongue
  • Limited joint movement
  • Sleep apnea
  • Swelling of the bony areas around a joint
  • Thickening of the skin, skin tags
  • Widely spaced teeth
  • Widened fingers or toes due to too much skin growth, with swelling, redness, and pain

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Excess hair growth in females
  • Weight gain (unintentional)

Signs and tests

This disease may also change the results of the following tests:

Treatment

Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor that is causing this condition usually corrects the abnormal growth hormone release in most patients. Sometimes the tumor is too large to remove completely. People who do not respond to surgery will have radiation of the pituitary gland. However, the reduction in growth hormone levels after radiation is very slow.

The following medications may be used to treat acromegaly:

  • Octreotide (Sandostatin) or bromocriptine (Parlodel) may control growth hormone release in some people.
  • Pegvisomant (Somavert) directly blocks the effects of growth hormone, and has been shown to improve symptoms of acromegaly.

These medications may be used before surgery, after surgery, or when surgery is not possible.

After treatment, you will need to see your health care provider regularly to make sure that the pituitary gland is working normally. Yearly evaluations are recommended.

Expectations (prognosis)

Pituitary surgery is successful in most patients, depending on the size of the tumor and the experience of the surgeon.

Without treatment the symptoms will get worse, and the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes (high blood sugar), and cardiovascular disease increases.

Complications

Other health problems may include:

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of acromegaly
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment

Prevention

There are no methods to prevent the condition, but early treatment may prevent complications of the disease from getting worse.

References

Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Pituitary masses and tumors. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 9.

Updated: 12/11/2011

Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medeicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com