What are the Symptoms of Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder that results from the overproduction of growth hormone (GH) in the pituitary gland, often due to a noncancerous tumor (adenoma). The symptoms of acromegaly typically develop slowly over time and may include:

  • Enlarged Hands and Feet: One of the most noticeable signs of acromegaly is the gradual enlargement of the hands and feet. This may lead to a change in ring or shoe size.
  • Facial Changes: The facial features can change, with an enlargement of the nose, lips, and jaw. This can result in a coarser appearance, pronounced brow, and wider spacing between the teeth.
  • Thickened Skin: The skin may become thicker and more leathery, especially on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
  • Joint Pain: Individuals with acromegaly may experience joint pain and stiffness due to the growth of cartilage and soft tissues around the joints.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The enlarged tissues in the wrist can compress the median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, such as hand numbness and weakness.
  • Headache: Persistent headaches are a common symptom due to the tumor’s effect on the surrounding brain tissues.
  • Sweating: Excessive sweating and heat intolerance can occur.
  • Fatigue: Generalized fatigue and weakness may be present.
  • Vision Changes: The tumor can compress the optic nerves, leading to vision problems such as blurred vision, double vision, or tunnel vision.
  • Sleep Apnea: Acromegaly can cause sleep apnea, leading to snoring and daytime sleepiness.
  • Enlarged Organs: Internal organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, can enlarge, potentially causing cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues.
  • Menstrual Irregularities: In women, acromegaly can lead to menstrual irregularities or even amenorrhea (lack of menstruation).
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common comorbidity in acromegaly.

It’s important to note that the symptoms of acromegaly can vary from person to person, and they often develop slowly, leading to delayed diagnosis. The condition is usually diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation, hormone testing (such as measuring insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1 levels), and imaging studies (e.g., MRI) to visualize the pituitary adenoma.

Treatment for acromegaly typically involves addressing the underlying cause by managing the pituitary tumor. Treatment options may include surgery to remove the tumor, medications to reduce GH secretion, and, in some cases, radiation therapy. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to preventing complications and improving the quality of life for individuals with acromegaly. Patients with acromegaly are usually managed by endocrinologists, neurosurgeons, and other specialists.

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