ACROMEGALY

A RARE DISEASE

Causes:

Acromegaly occurs in about 6 of every 100,000 adults. It is caused by abnormal production of growth hormone after the skeleton and other organs finish growing.


Excessive production of growth hormone in children causes gigantism rather than Acromegaly.


The cause of the increased growth hormone release is usually a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, which is located just below the brain, controls the production and release of several different hormones, including growth hormone.

SMPTOMS:

skull of an acromegalic person

TREATMENT:

Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor that is causing this condition usually corrects the abnormal growth hormone release in most patients. Sometimes the tumor is too large to remove completely. People who do not respond to surgery will have radiation of the pituitary gland. However, the reduction in growth hormone levels after radiation is very slow.

The following medications may be used to treat Acromegaly:

  • Octreotide (Sandostatin) or bromocriptine (Parlodel) may control growth hormone release in some people.

  • Pegvisomant (Somavert) directly blocks the effects of growth hormone, and has been shown to improve symptoms of acromegaly.

These medications may be used before surgery, after surgery, or when surgery is not possible.

COMPLICATIONS:

Progression of acromegaly can result in major health problems. Complications may include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cardiovascular disease, particularly enlargement of the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep
  • Reduced secretion of other pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism)
  • Uterine fibroids, benign tumors in the uterus
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Vision loss

Early treatment of acromegaly can prevent these complications from developing or becoming worse. If untreated, acromegaly and its complications can lead to premature death.

PREVENTION:

There are no methods to prevent the condition, but early treatment may prevent complications of the disease from getting worse.