What is Acromegaly?

by Michael_Koger

Acromegaly is a medical condition in which there is excessive secretion of growth hormone into the human bloodstream.

This is a disease with prevalence of 36 to 60 cases per million individuals and an incidence of 3 to 4 per million people each year. Though it may occur at any point of the lifetime, its most common onset is during middle-age. In any event, this illness may be present for several years before it leads to clinical signs and symptoms that prompt a visit to the health care practitioner [1, 2].

The condition originates from benign tumors or adenomas of the pituitary gland. Since it secretes substances directly into the bloodstream, it is one of several ductless, or endocrine, glands. They interact with each other and provide feedback to determine which ones will release additional—or less—hormone [1, 2].

In essence, the levels of these chemicals will vary throughout the day and night, and fluctuations have to do with physical exercise, stress, consumption of food, and sleep [2].

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

     The occurrence of acromegaly manifests with fatigue, loss of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction in men, swelling of the hands and feet, visual problems, and headaches.  Women with the infirmity will likely have irregular menstrual periods.  These clients may also experience sleep apnea, excessive sweating, and enlargement of the lips, tongue, and nose.  The swelling in some cases necessitates purchase of new shoes with a different size [1, 2].

     Additionally, there may be changes of the hair and skin.  These signs likely have to do with abnormal levels of thyroid hormone in the blood as well as others that interact with the hypothalamus.  Women may have a discharge from the breast [1, 2].

     Though the example in Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine had a happy conclusion, the disease course exerted psychological distress on the patient and family.  Specifically, the patient was an elderly accountant who lost his interest in sex and suffered from swelling of the hands.  As a result, he removed his wedding ring because of the discomfort.  His wife wrongly concluded that he was having an extramarital affair [1].


     Acromegaly is a well-known infirmity with somewhat bizarre symptoms; however, it is possible to diagnose and manage it well.



  1. Kravets, I.  (2017).  Big heart, small ring.  Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 84, 925-933.
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  (2012).  Acromegaly.
  3. The photo shows a library at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and is reprinted with permission from that organization.
  4. Copyright 2018.  Michael Koger, Sr.  All Rights Reserved.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and one should not use it for diagnosis or treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 01/03/2018, Michael_Koger
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