Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder resulting from over-production of the growth hormone from the pituitary glands during adulthood. It affects middle-aged adults where the bones increase in size, including hands, face, and feet.
Even though it is common in middle-aged adults, it can develop at any age. In children, too much growth hormone causes a condition called gigantism, where children have huge bone growth and an abnormal height increase.
Recognition of Acromegaly takes time due to its uncommon nature and gradually physical changes. It causes serious illness becoming life-threatening if not treated promptly.
The common sign is enlarged feet and hands noticed when rings and shoes previously worn do not fit anymore.
Acromegaly also causes slow changes in face shape, e.g., protruding lower jaws and brow, thickened lips, enlarged nose, and wider teeth gaps.
Acromegaly produces the below signs and symptoms that vary among individuals:
- Excessive body odor and sweating.
- Tiredness and weakness of muscles.
- Coarse and oily thick skin.
- Large feet and hands.
- Skin tags ( tiny outgrowths of skin tissue)
- Vision impairment.
- Severe snoring as a result of upper air obstruction.
- Enlarged vocal cords and sinuses due to deepened and husky voice.
- Lack of sexual interest.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Irregularities in the menstrual cycle.
- Huge tongue.
Causes of Acromegaly
Acromegaly is a disorder caused by overproduction of growth home (GH) by the pituitary glands, located at the base of the brain behind the nose bridge. GH plays a vital role in the management of physical growth.
The secretion GH into the bloodstream triggers the liver to produce insulin-like growth factor -I (IGF-I), which in turn stimulates the growth of tissues and bones. Therefore excessive production of GH leads to high production of -I (IGF-I), causing abnormal growth of the skeleton and soft tissues. In human beings, the common cause of excessive production of GH is a tumor.
A noncancerous tumor (adenoma) of the pituitary glands causes the most cases of acromegaly. The tumor secrets too much GH, leading to acromegaly. Headaches and impaired vision are caused by the tumor pressing against close brain tissues.
Some cases of acromegaly are caused by tumors in other body parts such as pancreas and lungs. These tumors may produce GH or growth hormone-releasing hormone (GH-RH) stimulating the pituitary gland to make more GH.
Untreated progressive acromegaly results in major health problems such as:
- Diabetes mellitus.
- Carpel tunnel syndrome.