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Acromegaly

Here are acromegaly pictures, information on this rare disease, symptoms, causes and treatment.

Acromegaly occurs due to the overproduction of growth hormone often as a result of a benign tumor in the pituitary gland. The disease causes enlarged bone, tissue growth, thickening of the skin and swelling which are evident on the feet and hands. Majority of the individuals who have it are unaware of the disease because its progression occurs gradually. Children and adults alike can suffer from this slowly progressing disorder.

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Treatment for acromegaly helps the patient by preventing the condition from aggravating into more serious medical complications and eventual death. The treatment employed is designed individually, based on the age of the patient, the tumor’s location and size, as well as the existing medical issues the patient is suffering from. Early detection improves the prognosis of the disease.

Causes of Acromegaly

Acromegaly occurs when the body produces more growth hormones than what is actually needed for growth and tissue repair. The growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland but it is the hypothalamus that regulates the level in the body by means of growth hormone-releasing hormone or GHRH or somatostatin.  This stimulates or prevents the pituitary gland from producing growth hormone. The growth hormone is also important in the production IGF-1 hormone or insulin-like growth factor-1.

Pituitary adenoma or benign growth in the gland is responsible in the overproduction of growth hormone. Because it is not cancerous, it does not metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. Experts have yet to establish the cause of pituitary adenoma. The disease could lead to more serious medical complications once ignored.  Some of these conditions are:

  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Diabetes
  • Polyps
  • Vision loss
  • Compressed spinal cord
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

Incidence of Acromegaly

The disease rarely occurs, affecting around 6 out of 100,000 adults. It is equally distributed in both genders but affects more adults than children. It is often diagnosed during the fourth decade of a person’s life. In children, the disease is medically referred to as gigantism and the symptoms become more pronounced between 15 and 17 years old.

The prognosis is quite good if the disease is detected and treated early. Surgical removal of the tumor had been found to effectively treat the condition relative to the surgeon’s experience and tumor size and location. On the other hand, without treatment, the prognosis is slim as it could result in serious complications.

Symptoms of Acromegaly

The disease had its name from the two Greek words acro and megaly which mean “extremities” and “great”, respectively. Enlarged extremities are the distinctive features of the disease. It is hardly detected during its early stages because it progresses slowly. The physical manifestations of the disease may become evident only after several years.

If the condition is a result of excess growth hormone, the patient will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Enlarged feet and hands
  • Husky voice
  • Excessive sweating
  • Changed facial appearance
  • Sweaty and greasy skin
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Joint pain
  • Thickened nasal passages

If the condition occurs due to a growing pituitary adenoma or tumor, the following will happen:

  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Hormone imbalance which could result in impotence in men and scanty period in women

Treatment of Acromegaly

Treatment will help the patient avoid the serious complications and premature death by getting the level of growth hormone back to normal. It will also resolve issues involving enlarged extremities. Treatment plans are individualized according to the specific needs of the patient. The doctor will take into account the location of the tumor, the overall health and age of the patient. Among the treatment options used these days are:

  • Surgery

This is the first line of treatment for acromegaly in which the pituitary tumors are removed. Patients will find their growth hormones are back to normal. Further treatment may be needed if the tumors are not completely removed.

  • Drug therapy

Drug therapy is done to normalize the IGF-1 hormone and growth hormone in the blood. This is also conducted to reduce the size of the pituitary tumor. Drug therapy is recommended for individuals who are at risk of developing complications in surgery. Among the drugs used are GHRAs (growth hormone receptor antagonists), SSAs (somatostatin analogues) and Dopamine agonists. These drugs have side effects, so patients should thoroughly discuss this option with their doctors.

  • Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is another option if the tumor was not completely removed during surgery or drug therapy. This is also the choice for people who do not qualify for surgical removal of pituitary tumors due to existing medical problems. Radiation therapy is often used in combination with drug therapy. Hormone replacement therapy is also done when pituitary function is permanently lost.

Acromegaly rarely occurs and early detection and treatment reduces the odds of developing serious complications or premature death. Patients will be closely monitored by their doctors to ensure that the body produces the right amount of growth hormone.

Acromegaly Pictures

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