Medical Definition of Acromegaly

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Acromegaly: Condition due to the production of too much growth hormone by the pituitary gland after the end of adolescence.

When there is secretion of too much growth hormone before the end of adolescence, gigantism results. People with pituitary gigantism can truly be giants; they can sometimes end up over 7 or 8 feet in height.

When too much growth hormone is secreted after adolescence, there cannot be an increase in height but acromegaly ensues. The cardinal manifestations of acromegaly include thickening of the skin, soft tissues, and bones of the hands and feet. These effects are insidious and very slowly progressive. Ultimately they cause considerable disability (aside from the need for larger rings, gloves, and shoes) including hoarseness, sleep apnea, joint pain, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, visual impairment and severe headaches.

Excessive growth hormone secretion may be caused by an adenoma of the pituitary (a tumor of the pituitary) or by other causes. Treatment is usually possible via medication, surgery or radiation. Inadequate treatment of pituitary gigantism or acromegaly is associated with increases in deaths from cardiovascular causes, cancer, and other causes.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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