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Alternative Names Return to topSomatotroph adenoma; Growth hormone excess; Pituitary giant; Gigantism
Definition Return to top
Acromegaly is a chronic metabolic disorder in which there is too much growth hormone and the body tissues gradually enlarge.
Causes Return to top
Acromegaly occurs in about 6 of every 100,000 adults. It is caused by abnormal production of growth hormone after the skeleton and other organs finish growing.
Excessive production of growth hormone in children causes gigantism rather than acromegaly.
The cause of the increased growth hormone release is usually a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, which is located just below the brain, controls the production and release of several different hormones, including growth hormone.
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
This disease may also change the results of the following tests:
Treatment Return to top
Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor causing this condition corrects the abnormal growth hormone secretion in most patients. This surgery may not be available to patients in remote locations, so travel to a larger metropolitan area may be necessary for treatment.
Radiation of the pituitary gland is used for people who do not respond to the surgical treatment. However, the reduction in growth hormone levels after radiation is very slow.
The following medications may be used to treat acromegaly:
These medications may be used before surgery, or when surgery is not possible.
After treatment, periodic evaluation is necessary to ensure that the pituitary gland is working normally. Yearly evaluations are recommended.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Pituitary surgery is successful in most patients, depending on the size of the tumor and the experience of the surgeon.
Without treatment the symptoms will get worse, and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of acromegaly, or if your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
Prevention Return to top
There are no methods to prevent the condition, but early treatment may prevent complications of the disease from getting worse.
References Return to top
Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Anterior pituitary. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 8.Update Date: 3/18/2008 Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.