Growth hormone (GH) controls the growth of soft tissue and bone. Elevated GH causes an excess of bone and soft tissue growth. In adults, this can cause the rare disorders acromegaly. It can cause serious complications and early death if not treated.
In young children, bone fusion and growth is still occurring. Excess GH can cause a similar condition called gigantism.
The pituitary gland is a small gland located at the base of the brain. It produces many hormones including GH.
In most cases, the elevation of GH is caused by a benign tumor]]> of this gland. In a small number of cases, malignant tumors of other organs (pancreas, adrenal, lung) may be the source of excess GH.
- In some rare cases—family history
- Average age of diagnosis is 40-45 years old
Some rare cases are hereditary. The average age of diagnosis is 40-45 years old.
Symptoms usually develop very slowly over time.
In children, the bones are elongated and cause soft tissue swelling. If not treated, children can grow to a height of 7-8 feet.
Symptoms and complications in adults may include the following:
Abnormally large growth and deformity of the:
- Hands (rings no longer fit)
- Feet (need a bigger size shoe)
- Face (protrusion of brow and lower jaw)
- Jaw (teeth do not line up correctly when the mouth is closed)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome]]>
Skin changes, such as:
- Thickened, oily, and sometimes darkened skin
- Severe ]]>acne]]>
- Excessive sweating and offensive body order due to enlargement of the sweat glands
- Deepening voice due to enlarged sinuses, vocal cords, and soft tissues of the throat
- Fatigue and weakness in legs and arms
- ]]>Sleep apnea]]>
- ]]>Arthritis]]> and other joint problems especially in the jaw
- Enlargement of the liver, kidneys, spleen, heart, and/or other internal organs, which can lead to:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- ]]>Galactorrhea]]> (abnormal production of breast milk) in about 50% of cases
- ]]>Impotence]]> in about 50% of cases
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It is often not diagnosed until years after its onset.
Blood tests will be done to measure the level of:
- Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I)
- Growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH)
- Other pituitary hormones
If these tests confirm acromegaly, the following may be done to locate the tumor that is causing the disorder:
The goals of treatment are to:
- Reduce production of GH to normal levels
- Stop and reverse the symptoms caused by oversecretion of GH
- Correct other endocrine abnormalities (thyroid, adrenal, sex organs)
- Reduce the tumor size
Treatment may include:
The tumor that is believed to be causing acromegaly may be removed. In most cases, this is the preferred treatment.
External beams of radiation are used to shrink the tumor. It is most often used when surgery cannot be used or when medications have failed.
Drugs may be given to reduce the level of GH secretion. These include:
- ]]>Cabergoline]]> (Dostinex)—given orally
- Pergolide (Permax)—given orally
- ]]>Bromocriptine]]> (Parlodel)—may be given before surgery to shrink tumor
- ]]>Octreotide]]> (Sandostatin)—given by injections (may be the most effective medication for this condition)
- ]]>Pegvisomant]]> —given by injections if not responding to other forms of treatment
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases
Pituitary Network Association
Pituitary Tumor Network Association
Queen's University Department of Opthamology
Abrams P, Alexopoulou O, Abs R, et al. Optimalization and cost management of lanreotide-Autogel therapy in acromegaly. Eur J Endocrinol. 2007;571-577.
Acromegaly treatment consensus workshop participants: guidelines for acromegaly management. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2002; 87:4054-4058.
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org .
Cook DM. AACE Acromegaly Guidelines Taskforce. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for the diagnosis and treatment of acromegaly. Endoc Pract . 2004;10:213-225.
Glustina A, Barkan A, Casanueva FF, et al. Criteria for cure of acromegaly: a consensus statement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2000;85:526-529.
Melmed S. Medical progress: acromegaly. N Engl J Med . 2006;355:2558-2573.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information . Simon and Schuster; 2000.
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov .
Paisley AN, Trainer PJ. Medical treatment in acromegaly. Curr Opin Pharmacol . 2003;3:672-677.
Trainer PJ, Drake WM, Katzneison L, et al. Treatment of acromegaly with the growth hormone-receptor antagonist pegvisomant. N Engl J Med . 2000; 342:1171-1177.
Last reviewed January 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeW¹itt, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.