It is a rare disorder which is marked by excess of growth hormone causing gigantism and enlargement of tissues. This hormone (growth hormone) is secreted by pituitary gland, located in the brain. Actually it is the growth hormone which makes our bone and muscles strong and help in the development of organs and tissues. The problem occurs, only when the hormone is secreted in excess.
Acromegaly is the Greek word meaning “enlargement of extremities”. This disorder is marked by overgrowth of bones and joints, swelling of lips, face and even tongue. Further it can affect the internal organs like heart, lungs and kidneys.
Acromegaly Causes :
Pituitary gland secretes Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which causes normal development of bones and muscles in children. But when the hormone is secreted in large quantity, it causes abnormal growth in the organs and tissues which looks bigger than bones. This condition is called Gigantism or acromegaly.
There is another hormone by name somatostatin which reduces and stops the excess secretion of growth hormone. Excess of growth hormone can stimulate the liver to secrete insulin like growth factor called IGF-1 which thereby assists in the development of bones and tissues. Too much of IGF-1 is responsible for this disorder.
Very often, development of tumor in the pituitary gland (adenoma) causes acromegaly. This is believed to originate from genetic defect. However the exact factor that causes this birth defect is not known. Adenoma tumor is benign in nature, not spreading to other body parts.
The person suffering from acromegaly will have large sized bones on his face, and abnormal size of hands and legs. Further he would have large jaw with widely spaced teeth. He would feel tired very often and have muscular weakness. There would be moderate to severe joint pain and headache. The skin of the affected person may become thick and hoarse. For some people the fingers and toes will have large spaces and may look swelling and red.
Pictures of Acromegaly :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Acromegaly
Certain corrective surgeries can be made to minimize the symptoms but the growth hormone secretion may not be fully repaired. In case of any tumor like growth in the pituitary gland, it will be removed by surgery. In case the size of the tumor gets too large, then drug therapy and radiation therapy is administered.
Drugs like octreotide and bormocriptine is given to reduce the growth of hormonal secretion. However the patient has to visit the doctor regularly and check the growth level of pituitary gland. In most of the cases, the tumor will be removed by expert surgeon. If you ignore the symptoms, acromegaly may lead to further complications like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, sleep apnea, and vision problems.
For many cases, several therapies are combined for getting better outcome. After each therapy, the doctor will check the level of IGF-1 factor in the blood to determine the growth hormone secretion.
Radiation treatment is preferred for people who may not undergo surgery due to health condition. Radiation therapy is given in the form of external beam and stereotactic method. Of the two types, external beam method takes long time (7 years) to respond and stereotactic method starts remission in about 1.5-2 years.
Very often there will be loss of function of pituitary gland by people who take radiation treatment. To rectify this, they have to undergo hormone replacement therapy for the entire life.