Acromegaly, a hormonal disease, is due, in the vast majority of cases, to the presence of an adenoma, a benign tumor located in the anterior pituitary (adenohypophysis). This adenoma causes excessive growth hormone secretion. Hypertrophic morphological changes are often associated to this disorder. The latter are accompanied by serious health problems and physical changes. Untreated, the disease progresses and can become life-threatening. This hormonal imbalance causes gigantism in children.
Acromegaly is characterized by hypertrophic morphological changes, namely:
- an abnormal growth of the head, hands, feet, viscera;
- an increase in the spacing of the teeth;
- thickening of facial features, lips, nose;
- a detachment of the ears;
- protruding jaw and brow.
These changes are frequently accompanied by diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, sleep apnea, deformities of the spine... With the pituitary gland being located in the sella, the adenoma may be responsible for the compression of the optic nerve leading to visual impairment.
Acromegaly develops slowly, delaying diagnosis. The typical clinical signs help guide doctors in the diagnosis of acromegaly, which can be confirmed by the results of hormonal levels, including growth hormone. Acromegalic individuals are followed by an endocrinologist, and treated early, unless the consequences are irreversible. In the absence of treatment, the morphological changes are severe, the patient is exposed to the risk of developing cancers and life expectancy is reduced.
The treatment of acromegaly is to initially medicate with drugs that inhibit the production of growth hormone, but sometimes the surgery is necessary. This surgery is very delicate, because of the location of the tumor. The success rate depends on the size of the adenoma and the surgeon's experience. Patients should be followed clinically throughout their lives.
No prevention exists in the case of acromegaly. However, it is necessary to start treatment early in a way that prevents worsening of this endocrine disease.
Original article published by
. Translated by Jeff