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Acromegaly

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What Is Acromegaly?

When you have acromegaly, your body makes too much growth hormone. This makes parts of your body -- like your hands, feet, and face -- grow too much. It also affects your heart and bones.

There are treatments for acromegaly, and every case is different. In most cases, it might be years before you notice symptoms.

Most people who get acromegaly are middle-aged. Children can have problems with too much growth hormone, but that's a different condition called gigantism.

Causes

The most common cause is a benign tumor in your pituitary gland, which is located under your brain. This tumor is not cancer. Because of the tumor, your body makes too much growth hormone.

Once in a while, tumors in the pancreas, liver, or parts of the brain can cause high levels of growth hormone. That leads to higher levels of another hormone, called insulin-like growth hormone, which causes the symptoms you see.

Symptoms

First, your hands and feet usually start to swell. You might notice a change in your ring or shoe size, especially your shoe width.

The features in your face -- your lips, nose, and tongue -- often change, becoming larger, swollen, and broader. Your teeth may begin to space out. Your brow and lower may jaw start to jut out from your face.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Achy joints, possibly leading to arthritis
  • Stiff, rough body hair
  • Hoarser, deeper voice
  • Pinched nerve problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Thickening skin with skin tags
  • Sweating a lot with oily skin
  • Headaches
  • Snoring and sleep apnea, a breathing problem that happens during sleep
  • Weakness and being tired
  • Tingling or pain in fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Vision problems
  • Lower sex drive
  • Changes in menstrual cycle and breast discharge in women
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

You can sometimes have problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, a higher chance of heart disease, and an enlarged heart.

Getting a Diagnosis

The sooner your acromegaly is diagnosed, the better. When you go to see your doctor, he'll ask you questions like these:

  • Why did you come to see me today?
  • What changes have you noticed?
  • When did you first notice the problem?
  • How are you feeling?
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