Acromegaly is a rare disease. By definition, acromegaly means enlargement of soft tissues. It develops due to an excessive growth hormone production. Usually, there is a slow progression of symptoms that a person may not notice initially. For this reason, there is a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of acromegaly. You may wonder, what causes acromegaly? Well, it is almost always due to a non-cancerous growth in the pituitary gland.
Symptoms of Acromegaly – Excessive Growth Hormone
- Coarsening of facial features, which develops slowly. That’s why comparison to an old picture is helpful.
- Enlargement of the jaw and tongue.
- Separation of teeth.
- Excessive soft tissues in palms which gives rise to a “pillow-like” feel upon handshake.
- Excessive soft tissues in feet. For this reason, your shoe size increases.
- Thickening of fingers. Therefore, your ring may no longer fit.
- Excessive perspiration.
- Skin tags.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Joint pains.
- High blood pressure.
- Enlarged heart.
- Kidney stones.
- Colon polyps and increased risk for colon cancer.
Often, symptoms of acromegaly develop insidiously. That’s why a patient is usually not aware of them. Sometimes, it is another person who may point out these abnormal features to the patient. However, as a physician, once you have seen a patient with acromegaly, you can spot one immediately.
Usually the first test to diagnose acromegaly is serum IGF-1. Afterwards, a second test – Oral Glucose Challenge test – can confirm the diagnosis.
Often, acromegaly is treatable. In most cases, treatment consists of surgical removal of the pituitary tumor. Afterwards, there is radiation therapy. However, if a patient is not a candidate for surgery, then medical therapy is available as an alternative. In this regard, a prescription drug – Octreotide – is quite effective.
Is Acromegaly Curable?
Acromegaly is not curable in most cases. Why? Because there is delay in the diagnosis due to slow progression of clinical signs and symptoms. For this reason, most patients have already developed enlargement of organs – including a large pituitary tumor – at the time of diagnosis. Hence, treatment of acromegaly can reduce its symptoms but does not cure it.
Acromegaly is a rare disease. Often, it produces symptoms which are slow in progression. Consequently, there is a delay in the diagnosis. Even then, there is an effective treatment of acromegaly available. However, it does not cure it in most patients.