What is Acromegaly - Hyperpituitarism?
Written by Jessica Smith
Sunday, 04 October 2009
Acromegaly is excessive bone growth. It results when a person's body produces too much growth hormone. The condition causes gradual enlargement of the bones in the face, jaw, hands, feet, and skull.
What is going on in the body?
Most cases of acromegaly are caused by a pituitary tumor that is benign, which means that it is not cancer. The tumor causes the pituitary gland to make excess hormones. The high level of growth hormone produces changes in many tissues and organs. Acromegaly occurs after growth has been completed. In most cases, it begins between the ages of 30 and 50.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The high growth hormone levels that lead to acromegaly are usually caused by a pituitary tumor. No one knows what causes pituitary tumors. They are more common in women than in men.
What are the treatments for the condition?
The goal of treatment is to stop the body from producing so much growth hormone. There are three treatment approaches:
- Surgery. When the pituitary tumor is removed, it corrects the abnormal growth hormone secretion in most people.
- Medicine. Medicines such as octreotide and bromocriptine may be used to block the production of growth hormone.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy helps to shrink the pituitary tumor, which then returns healthy function to the organ.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Surgery may cause bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to the anesthesia. About one-third of people who are given medicines to block the production of growth hormones have side effects. Side effects include pain at the injection site, loose stools, abdominal pain, and gallbladder stones. Radiation may cause mouth ulcers. It may also damage normal tissues around the tumor. However, accurate targeting of the radiation can lessen these effects.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
When treatment is a success, the excess bone growth should stop. There is a slight chance that the tumor that caused the acromegaly may come back.
How is the condition monitored?
The person should have yearly medical exams. Blood tests may be performed to measure the amount of growth hormone present and make sure that it stays in a healthy range. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.