Sep 15, 2023
A hormonal disease called acromegaly happens when your pituitary gland overproduces growth hormone as an adult.
If you have an excess of growth hormone, your bones will grow. Gigantism is a condition that causes children to grow taller. However, there is no difference in height as an adult. The condition is known as acromegaly and affects just the bones in your hands, feet, and face.
Acromegaly is a rare disorder, and because the physical changes take place gradually over several years, it can sometimes take a while to diagnose. High levels of growth hormone can have effects on your bones in addition to other body parts if left untreated. Serious health issues may result, perhaps even life-threatening ones. However, treatment can significantly lessen your risk of complications and improve your symptoms, including the growth of your characteristics.
Acromegaly happens when the pituitary gland continuously and excessively produces growth hormone (GH).
The pituitary gland is a little gland that is located behind the bridge of your nose at the base of your brain. It also produces GH and a number of other hormones. Your ability to govern your physical development depends on GH.
Your liver creates IGF-1, also known as insulin-like growth factor-I or IGF-I, in response to the pituitary gland secreting GH into your bloodstream. IGF-1 causes your bones and other tissues to grow. IGF-1 production is increased when GH levels are excessively high, which may result in the symptoms.
Larger hands and feet are frequent characteristics of acromegaly. You might notice, for instance, that your shoe size has steadily increased and that previously fitting rings no longer fit.
Acromegaly can also cause subtle alterations in the way your face looks, like a protruding lower jaw and brow bone, a wider smile, thicker lips, and a broader nose.
Because acromegaly has a tendency to progress slowly, early signs may not be seen for years. Contrasting earlier and more recent photographs can often be the only way for people to notice physical changes.
Acromegaly generally manifests as any of the following signs and symptoms, which can vary from person to person:
A tumor is the most prevalent cause of increased GH production in adults:
Acromegaly symptoms including headaches and vision problems are brought on by the tumor pressing on adjacent brain regions.
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and do a physical checkup. Then, he or she might suggest taking the following actions:
Treatment for acromegaly depends on the patient. The location and size of your tumor, the intensity of your symptoms, your age, and your general health will all likely have an impact on your treatment options.
Treatment options often involve surgery or radiation to remove or reduce the size of the tumor that is causing your symptoms, as well as medicines to help normalize your hormone levels, in order to help lower your GH and IGF-1 levels.
Your doctor can suggest additional therapies if you have acromegaly-related health issues in order to assist you in managing your challenges.
Transsphenoidal surgery is a technique that doctors can use to remove the majority of pituitary tumors. Your surgeon will do this operation while accessing your pituitary gland through your nose. Your doctor will advise another sort of surgery to remove the tumor if it is not on your pituitary gland and is the cause of your symptoms.
When a tumor is removed, your GH levels usually return to normal, especially if your tumor is small. Removing the tumor may also assist with headaches and vision disturbances if the tumor is placing pressure on the tissues surrounding your pituitary gland.
Your surgeon might not always be able to remove the entire tumor. If so, even after surgery, your GH levels can remain excessive. Your doctor might advise more surgery, medication, or radiation therapy.
To assist your hormone levels in returning to normal, your doctor may advise one of the following medications or a combination of medications:
For those who haven't had great success with conventional treatments, pegvisomant may be very beneficial. This drug, which is administered as a daily injection, doesn't affect GH levels or tumor size, but it can help lower IGF-1 levels and relieve symptoms.
Your doctor might advise radiation therapy if your surgeon wasn't able to completely remove the tumor during surgery. Radiation therapy gradually reduces GH levels and gets rid of any tumor cells that are still alive. Before this treatment noticeably alters the symptoms of acromegaly, years may pass.
In addition to GH, radiation therapy frequently reduces the levels of other pituitary hormones. If you receive radiation therapy, you'll probably need to see your doctor on a frequent basis to ensure that your pituitary gland is functioning properly and to monitor your hormone levels.
Your lifetime may be occupied by this aftercare.
Radiation therapy comes in various forms, such as:
Untreated acromegaly can cause serious health issues. Possible complications include:
Acromegaly can be treated early to stop the onset or worsening of these problems. Acromegaly and its complications might cause early death if left untreated.
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