What is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly: an excess of growth hormone (GH) that causes abnormal growth of bones and soft tissues in the human body.
Acromegaly is a relatively rare hormonal condition that affects its patients in profound and potentially serious ways.
What is Acromegaly caused by? The pituitary gland produces growth hormone naturally before your bones have fused together and you are still growing. Sometimes people experience growth, especially in the face, hands, and feet after they are fully grown. This condition is called Acromegaly.
Acromegaly is caused by an abundance of GH that signals bones, cartilage, and soft tissues to expand.
What is Acromegaly Folder
Acromegaly (noun) ac·ro·meg·a·ly | \ ˌa-krō-ˈme-gə-lē \
Definition of acromegaly: a disorder caused by excessive production of growth hormone by the pituitary gland and marked especially by abnormal enlargement of hands, feet, and face.

borrowed from French Acromégalie, from acro- ACRO- + -mégalie -MEGALY
According to modern literature, the term Acromegaly was coined as Acromégalie between 1885–90 by French physician Dr. Pierre Marie.”gigantism due to activity of pituitary after normal growth has ceased,” – 1886, Dr. Pierre Marie.


acro-
Greek akro-, from ákros “at the farthest extreme, topmost,”


-megaly
New Latin -megalia, from Greek megal-, megas

The difference between “Acromegaly” and “gigantism” depends on the age of the patient and whether or not their bones have fused together upon completion of bone growth. Both Acromegaly and gigantism occur when noncancerous tumors cause the pituitary gland to secrete growth hormone into the bloodstream.

Acromegaly is the diagnosis for adults (usually middle-aged) who exhibit visible changes in the size of their face, hands and feet rather than overall height.

Gigantism is the diagnosis for children and adolescents who have excess GH in their bodies before their bones fuse together at the end of their normal growth period. Since their bones have not permanently fused, they could continue to grow, creating extreme height and size.

Acromegaly Diagnosis Growth Hormone

Acromegaly Overview

Acromegaly is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged adults, but the symptoms of acromegaly can appear at any age.

When acromegaly is not treated, it can cause serious illness and even lead to premature death.

In most patients, acromegaly is treatable and sometimes “curable” but since it usually has a very slow and “sneaky” onset it is not always diagnosed early enough or correctly.

Some of the most serious health impacts of acromegaly are high blood pressure, type two diabetes, arthritis, increased cardiovascular disease risk, and increased risk for colon polys that can develop into colon cancer if not removed.

Why does the pituitary gland make too much GH?

In most cases, a person’s excess growth hormone is caused by a benign, or noncancerous, tumors on the pituitary gland that applies pressure to the gland making it secrete hormones unnecessarily. This type of benign tumor is called adenomas or pituitary adenomas.

what is acromegaly pituitary tumor

What is the Pituitary Gland?

The pituitary gland is very small (about the size of a pea) and it is located just underneath the brain, behind the bridge of the nose. It is one of the most important parts of the body since it not only secretes hormones into the bloodstream, it also controls most of the other endocrine glands and their secretions.

For example, the pituitary gland releases hormones that regulate the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, testes, and ovaries. It is also responsible for producing prolactin, the hormone that signals milk production in the breasts of pregnant and nursing women.

Growth Hormone and Acromegaly

Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland regulates metabolism, growth and body composition (fat, bone, water, and muscle mass.) In Acromegaly, the pituitary produces more GH than the body needs. When a person is an adult and has completely finished growing and their bones have been fused together, this excess of growth hormone causes the soft tissues of the body to continue growing. This is why enlargement of the face, feet, and hands are the most commonly associated symptoms of Acromegaly.

References:

The Pituitary Society (2000, October 18) What is Acromegaly? [Website]. Retrieved January 2020.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (1996, December 26) What is Acromegaly? [Website]. Retrieved January 2020.

The Mayo Clinic (2001, November 30) Acromegaly Symptoms and Causes [Website]. Retrieved January 2020.

The Mayo Clinic (1998, December 02) Acromegaly definition [Website]. Retrieved January 2020.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases (1996 December 26) What is Acromegaly? [Website]. Retrieved January 2020.