Unexpected Adult Growth Might be Due to Acromegaly

Typically, adulthood is a time when the body is maintaining the level of growth it achieved during the younger years. It’s focused on other aspects of the body.

However, some people must deal with a condition which continues the growth of some of their bones. Specifically, their hands, feet and facial bones continue to grow in size. This is known as acromegaly. 

This condition is uncommon. In addition to being uncommon, it can take several years to recognize that it’s occurring. The small changes that are happening can often be missed as a person simply adapts to those small changes as they occur over the years. However, since complications can be dangerous, it’s important to try to get a diagnosis as early as possible. This can enable treatment to help manage acromegaly. 

Causes of Acromegaly

The pituitary gland is responsible for creating and producing the hormones in the body which will regulate a person’s growth. When these hormones are produced at too high of a level, it causes acromegaly. 

For adults, it’s very common for a tumor to cause acromegaly. These are usually benign tumors which are located on a person's pituitary gland. It’s also possible for tumors elsewhere in other parts of the body to play a role as well by secreting hormones when it’s not required. This hormone imbalance is very dangerous and there are serious illnesses as complications. Some complications can be fatal! 

Symptoms of Acromegaly

The true sign of acromegaly is when the hands, feet and head get bigger. However, it can be difficult to distinguish this, as it can take years. Sometimes people need to compare new and old photos to get an idea of it. However, there are also some other symptoms that can occur. These include: 

  • Skin that thickens and becomes coarse and/or oily to the touch. 
  • Excessively sweating when not necessary and suffering from excess body odor. 
  • Suffering from fatigue and muscle weaknesses.
  • Heavy snoring due to the upper airway becoming obstructed. 
  • Excess skin tissue growths, also known as skin tags. 
  • Vision becoming impaired.
  • The tongue enlarging. 
  • Vocal changes, mainly to a deeper and huskier voice. 
  • Limited joint mobility causing pain while using them
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Organs like the heart and kidneys enlarging
  • Losing interest in sexual activity
  • Women suffering from irregularities during menstruation

This list is quite long, and as such, it’s important to see a doctor if any of these symptoms could be a sign of acromegaly, or are potentially being caused by another issue. 

Treatment of Acromegaly

Treatment for acromegaly focuses on altering the balance of hormones back to an acceptable level. The secondary goal is to try to minimize the sort of symptoms and negative effects that the condition has produced. 

There are several medications which might be given. Some reduce the hormone that is being excreted by the pituitary gland. Others will reduce the overall level of the hormone in the body, while others work to block the function of it, and not allow for excess growth. 

There are also surgical procedures which may be chosen. Since the pituitary tumors are a problem, they can be removed through transsphenoidal surgery. If the entire tumor cannot be removed, then elevated hormone levels will remain. 

Sometimes after surgery, radiation therapy is used to clean up any leftover tumor cells to ensure it won’t grow back. Conventional radiation therapy is common, but proton beam therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery can be used as well. 

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