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Acromegaly - Symptoms

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What are the Symptoms of Acromegaly?

The development of symptoms in acromegaly varies from patient to patient. Symptoms tend to develop gradually and the changes may not be noticed for years.

Symptoms can develop due to both the increase in growth hormone levels and the physical presence of the growing tumor in the brain. The effects of acromegaly can be very distressing and unpleasant, but most can be improved or reversed with treatment.

The abnormal growth hormone production leads to overproduction of another substance, IGF-I, which stimulates growth of bones and other tissues in the body. This can cause your hands, feet, and other parts of your body to enlarge. You may find that rings become tighter or need to be cut off and shoe size may increase. Overgrowth of tissue in the hands can cause nerves to be compressed, resulting in tingling or pains in the hands – known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Your facial features may change, perhaps making the jaw and forehead more prominent and enlarging the lips, nose and tongue. Skin may become thick and oily and excessive sweating can be a problem. Headaches are also a common symptom.

As the tumor grows it may cause headaches or impair peripheral vision as it presses on nearby nerves that run from the eyes to the brain. The tumor may damage the rest of the pituitary gland and cause underproduction of other hormones. The pituitary regulates many body processes and damage to it in this way commonly results in problems with impotence, infertility, or irregular periods.

Click on the image below for an idea of how vision may be disturbed in acromegaly Landscape with disturbed peripherial vision

Acromegalic and non-acromegalic GH levels

In addition to physical symptoms, acromegaly can be emotionally very traumatic. Symptoms such as loss of libido, exhaustion and changing body image can be stressful, particularly as there may be some time before correct diagnosis and discussion of treatment. Even after this, anxiety about anticipated surgery so close to the brain and an understanding that recovery can take a while for some people can be difficult to cope with.