Acromegaly is a rare but serious medical condition that happens when you have high levels of growth hormone (GH) in your body. Your pituitary gland normally produces GH, but tumors on your pituitary or in other parts of your body produce excess GH in acromegaly.
The most common cause of acromegaly is a tumor in your pituitary gland called a pituitary adenoma that causes your pituitary gland to release excess growth hormone
Pituitary adenomas (tumors) are almost always benign (noncancerous).
Most adenomas that cause acromegaly grow slowly, and you may not notice symptoms of excess GH for many years.
Depending on its size and location, the adenoma may press against other pituitary tissue and affect other hormones your pituitary gland makes.
If the adenoma is large, it may also press against nearby parts of your brain, causing headaches and vision problems.
Adults with acromegaly may experience the following symptoms:
Enlarged hands or feet.
Changes in your face shape, including a more prominent jaw and/or forehead.
Increase in size of your lips, nose and/or tongue.
Excessive sweating or oily skin.
Deepening of your voice.
Other symptoms include:
Increase in the number of skin tags.
Numbness in your hands.
Carpal tunnel syndrome or spinal cord issues.
If you’ve been diagnosed with acromegaly, your provider may order additional tests to see if the condition has affected other parts of your body. These tests may include:
An echocardiogram to check for heart issues.
Sleep study tests to check for sleep apnea.
A colonoscopy to assess the health of your colon.
X-rays or a DEXA (DXA) scan to check bone health.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe one medication or a combination of medications.
Medications work in different ways to normalize your body’s growth hormone levels and improve your symptoms.
In some cases, a person may take medication until the tumor has shrunk.
This can allow a surgeon to then safely remove it. Other people may need to take medication long-term to effectively manage growth hormone levels and symptoms.
In many cases, surgery greatly improves acromegaly symptoms or corrects the condition entirely.
Surgeons most often use a type of surgery called transsphenoidal surgery, which involves going through your nose and sphenoid sinus, a hollow space in your skull behind the nasal passages and below your brain, to perform surgery.
The specifics of the surgery will depend on the size and location of the tumor.
The goal of surgery is to remove all of a tumor that is causing excess growth hormone production. If your surgeon removes enough of the tumor, you may not need further treatment.
If your surgeon can remove only a part of a tumor, you may need medication or radiation therapy to manage your symptoms and reduce the production of growth hormone.