Acromegaly results from an overproduction of growth hormone. The result of growth hormone going awry will cause excessive growth of the body to gigantic proportions. Acromegaly is also known as gigantism.
What causes acromegaly?
Gigantism can be triggered by certain genetic disorders, but it is most commonly seen in people who have a tumor in the pituitary gland. It is also possible, although quite rare, that tumors in the liver and pancreas could also result in an enlarged pituitary which would increase the production of growth hormone; the result could also lead to gigantism.
Acromegaly can occur in anyone of any age. If it occurs in children the disorder is called gigantism and if it occurs in adults, it is known as acromegaly. Both men and women are equally affected with this hormonal malfunction.
How is acromegaly diagnosed?
To diagnose acromegaly or gigantism, diagnostic tests will need to be conducted. One test will measure the skull and the growth pattern of the skull bones will be screened. Blood tests will be done to establish the disturbance of the pituitary gland. CT and MRI images will establish the existence of any tumors growing on or around the pituitary gland.
Complications of acromegaly and gigantism
Many complications can arise from the gigantic statures of children and adults. Congestive heart failure, circulatory problems can be life threatening. These complications could also lead to a dysfunctional reproductive system. Puberty could be delayed, and sterility could occur. Vision impairments and lowered resistance to disease are common effects of gigantism in children. In adults, however, deformation of the hands and legs can occur, which gives the name acromegaly, indicating large extremities. A protruded jawbone with zigzag facial patterns is caused by an overgrowth of the bones in the skull and face.
Symptoms of acromegaly or gigantism
The symptoms which appear with acromegaly or gigantism include:
Course, dark hair growing all over the body
Joint pain and body aches due to arthritis
Enlarged lips and tongue
Excessive sweating and body odor
Due to the overproduction of growth hormone, the excessive growth of the bones and muscles will cause the problems with the nervous system. The pressure of excessive growth will result many neurological dysfunctions.
The neurological dysfunctions may include:
Loss of vision
Women suffering from acromegaly may produce milk in the breasts, though they are not breast feeding at the time. The breast milk is produced due to an overproduction of the hormone, prolactin.
Treatment for acromegaly or gigantism
People suffering from acromegaly or gigantism may also suffer from hypertension, diabetes and sleeplessness. These other health complications could severely threaten an individual’s life. Treatment should begin as soon as possible to increase the individual’s life expectancy. A combination of different therapies may be instituted to resolve the issues created by the condition of acromegaly.
Radiation therapy along with surgery may be done to remove the tumor of the pituitary gland. Radiation and surgery is often successful in reducing the excessive production of growth hormone. However, drugs need to be added to the regimen to block the existing growth hormone. Unless detected early and treated quickly, acromegaly or gigantism will severely hamper one’s lifestyle and longevity.