What is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a hormonal condition usually rare that develops from too much growth hormone (GH) in the body. This excessive amount of growth hormone (GH) leads to an overgrowth in the body’s bones and soft tissues. Children with this condition can grow abnormally and develop unusual heights and may also have a tendency of developing exaggerated bone structure. Acromegaly, most of the time, affects the arms, legs, and face.

Symptoms of Acromegaly

Detecting symptoms of Acromegaly can be quite hard because they usually develop gradually as time progresses.

Common symptoms of Acromegaly include:

  • Excessive hair growth in women
  • Enlarged bones in the hands, face, and feet
  • Enlarged jaw or tongue
  • A prominent brow
  • Weight gain
  • Spaces between the feet
  • Splayed fingers and toes
  • Fatigue Headaches
  • Body odor
  • Profuse sweating
  • Inability to sleep
  • Muscle weakness
  • Thickened skin
  • a hoarse, deep voice
  • Skin tags (non-cancerous cells)
  • Enlarged sebaceous hands
  • Swollen and painful joints that limit movement
  • Excessive growth spurts

Causes of Acromegaly

Acromegaly is mostly caused by the overproduction of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland over time. The pituitary gland is a rather small gland situated at the base of your brain behind the bridge of your nose, which is responsible for the production of a number of hormones. Growth hormone plays a very crucial role in the management of growth physically.

When GH is secreted right into the bloodstream, it incites the liver to produce a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). IGF-I helps in the stimulation of the growth of bones and other tissues.

If the production of growth hormone by the pituitary gland is too much, it can result in an excessive amount of IGF-I, which can cause abnormal growth of soft tissues and skeleton and other symptoms too.

A tumor is the most common reason for excessive GH production in adults.

The tumors include:

Pituitary tumors: Most cases of Acromegaly are usually caused by a non-cancerous (benign) tumor (adenoma) of the pituitary gland. The tumor generates too much growth hormone, which in turn causes many of the signs and symptoms of Acromegaly. Signs of Acromegaly, such as impaired vision and headaches, are due to the mass of the tumor pressing on nearby brain tissues.

Non-pituitary tumors: This type of tumor is responsible for the disorder in some parts of the body, such as the pancreas or lungs, cause the disorder. In some cases, these tumors secrete GH, and in other situations, the tumors produce a hormone known as growth hormone-releasing hormone (GH-RH), which in turn leads to the stimulation of the pituitary gland to produce more growth hormone (GH).

Diagnosis of Acromegaly

Most people with this health condition may never know they have it because of the slow onset of symptoms. However, a test can be carried out on you if you are being suspected of having Acromegaly. Acromegaly most often affects middle-aged adults. However, symptoms may appear at any age.

Below are the sort of tests for diagnosing Acromegaly:

Blood Test:

Blood tests can detect if one has excessive GH, but these tests aren’t always accurate as GH levels fluctuate during the day. Instead, a glucose tolerance test can be carried out.

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1):

A test for a protein may also be carried out for the presence of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Levels of IGF-1 can detect if there is an abnormal growth in the body. 

Imaging Studies:

MRI scans and X-rays may be provided to check for extra bone growth if your doctor speculates you have Acromegaly. Your doctor will also need to carry out a physical exam, and they may request a sonogram to determine the size of internal organs correctly.

Right after you are diagnosed with Acromegaly, your doctor may decide to use MRI and CT scans to assist them in finding the pituitary tumor and also determine its size. If they don’t find a tumor on the pituitary gland, your doctor will look for tumors in the chest, abdomen, or pelvis that may be causing excess GH production.

Who Is at Risk for Acromegaly?

Acromegaly can start any time after the puberty stage. However, it occurs more often in middle-aged adults. People often do not know that they have this condition. Changes to the body may occur slowly and gradually take it’s the course of many years.

Treating Acromegaly

Treatment for Acromegaly differs accordingly to one’s age and overall health.

Surgery:

Surgery is usually the first option doctors recommend removing the tumor, causing excess GH. This treatment is usually fast and very effective in reducing GH levels, which can make symptoms very obvious. 

Medication:

Medication is yet another treatment option that is most often used if surgery performed isn’t successful in helping with the reduction of GH levels. Medication helps in reducing and effects of the tumors before the surgery proper.

These types of drugs are used to regulate or block GH production of:

  • somatostatin analogs
  • GH receptor antagonists
  • dopamine agonists

Radiation:

Radiation may also be used to destroy large tumors or parts of tumors left or remaining after surgery or when taking medications only aren’t effective. Radiation can gradually help in the reduction of GH levels when used alongside medication.

Side effects of Radiation include:

  • Impairment of fertility.
  • It can as well lead to loss of vision in rare cases
  • Brain injury or secondary tumors.

What Are the Complications?

If left untreated, Acromegaly can cause severe health issues. It can even become life-threatening.

Some common complications include:

·         Vision loss

·         Type 2 Diabetes

·         Goiter

·         Arthritis

·         Heart disease

·         High blood pressure

·         Sleep apnea

·         Spinal cord compression

·         Carpel tunnel syndrome

·         Uterine fibroids in women

Early detection and treatment of Acromegaly can help stop these complications from developing or becoming worse. Not treating Acromegaly can sometimes lead to death.

The End Result for People with Acromegaly?

The end result for people with Acromegaly gives a positive outcome if the condition is detected early and then surgery to remove pituitary tumors becomes successful. Treatment may also help prevent one from having chronic effects.

It can get really difficult coping with the symptoms and treatments of Acromegaly. It can be really helpful joining support groups and also checking online to discover local support groups near you to join.

 

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