With acromegaly, the body makes too many hormones that affect growth. Usually, acromegaly is caused by a noncancerous tumor (an adenoma) that grows in the pituitary gland. The tumor causes too much growth hormone, or GH, to be released into the bloodstream.
As GH travels throughout the body, it tells the liver to make more hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 works together with GH to help control the growth of many tissues in the body. In acromegaly, there is too much IGF-1 and GH, which causes abnormal growth of bones, cartilage, and other body tissues.
What are the common signs of acromegaly?
Signs and symptoms of acromegaly tend to happen slowly, so you and your family members may not notice them at first.
Common signs of acromegaly may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Deepening of the voice
- Enlarged brow or lower jaw, increased gap between teeth
- Impaired vision
- Enlarged lips, nose, and tongue
- Sleep apnea (breaks in breathing during sleep)
- Thickened, coarse, or oily skin
- Excessive sweating or skin color
- Increased skin tags
Extremities and joints
- Swelling of the hands or feet (leading to bigger ring or shoe size)
- Reduced joint mobility
- Pain or stiffness in:
Reproductive and sexual health
- Abnormal period
- Breast discharge
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decrease in sex drive or desire
Think you may be experiencing acromegaly symptoms? Track them in the guide to discuss with your doctor.
How is acromegaly diagnosed?
The first steps a doctor typically takes toward diagnosing acromegaly are to record your complete medical history and conduct a thorough physical exam.
- Blood tests to measure your GH and IGF-1 levels
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to find the pituitary tumor and see its size
Because acromegaly is often difficult to diagnose, some people may live with the condition for years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.
Know you’re not alone
Discover patient organizations where people with acromegaly share the latest information and support.
Acromegaly treatment goals
The goal of treatment for acromegaly is to reduce GH and IGF-1 levels to normal
Working with your doctor to find a treatment that’s best for you is very important in helping to manage your acromegaly. Although acromegaly cannot always be cured with surgery or radiotherapy, it can often be managed with medication. Your doctor may regularly evaluate your GH and IGF-1 levels and ask you about your symptoms related to acromegaly.