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What Is Acromegaly?

Many people are curious about what acromegaly is and why it occurs. For starters, it's important to understand that acromegaly is a hormonal disease. It occurs when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone for an extended period of time. Symptoms include abnormal growth of the hands and feet, but other symptoms can also appear. These include things like headaches, arthritis, and enlarged lips, nose, and tongue.


What Is Acromegaly? -- An Introduction

Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder caused by an overproduction of growth hormone (GH). As its name implies, growth hormone is one of several hormones that regulate the physical growth of the body.
Acromegaly most commonly affects middle-aged adults and can result in serious illness and premature death.

What Are the Symptoms?

Acromegaly causes abnormal growth (enlargement) of the extremities, with one of the most common symptoms being the abnormal growth of the hands and feet. Other common symptoms of acromegaly may include:
  • Arthritis
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Skin tags
  • Enlarged lips, nose, and tongue
  • Deepening of the voice due to enlarged sinuses and vocal cords
  • Headaches
  • Abnormalities of the menstrual cycle
  • Impotence (also known as erectile dysfunction or ED) in men
  • Enlargement of body organs, including the liver, spleen, kidneys, and heart.

Acromegaly and Other Medical Conditions

Having acromegaly may also increase the risks of developing other health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus and colon polyps that can lead to colon cancer. People with acromegaly also have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and cardiovascular disease.

What Causes It?

Acromegaly is caused by prolonged overproduction of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland. This is often caused by:
Acromegaly is typically caused by a benign (not cancerous) tumor of the pituitary gland called a pituitary adenoma (or growth hormone-secreting adenoma). In certain patients, however, it is caused not by pituitary tumors, but by tumors of the pancreas, lungs, and adrenal glands.
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