What is acromegaly?
Acromegaly (from Greek akros "high" and megalos "large" - extremities enlargement) is a hormonal disorder that results when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone (hGH). Most commonly it is a benign hGH producing tumor
derived from a distinct type of cells (somatotrophs) and called pituitary adenoma.
Acromegaly is a serious condition that occurs when the body produces too much of the hormones that control growth. The hormone most often affected is called growth hormone, or GH. It is produced by the pituitary gland, a tiny organ at the base of the brain. Growth hormone promotes growth of bone, cartilage, muscle, organs, and other tissues. When there is too much growth hormone in the body, these tissues grow larger than normal. This excessive growth can cause serious disease and even premature death.
The most serious health consequences of acromegaly are diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Patients with acromegaly are also at increased risk for polyps of the colon that can develop into cancer.
When GH-producing tumors occur in childhood, the disease that results is called gigantism rather than acromegaly. Fusion of the growth plates of the long bones occurs after puberty so that development of excessive GH production in adults does not result in increased height. Prolonged exposure to excess GH before fusion of the growth plates causes increased growth of the long bones and increased height.