November 1 is Acromegaly Awareness Day.
Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder that occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone over time. In 95 percent of cases, acromegaly is the result of a non-malignant tumour of the pituitary gland. In rare cases it may be caused by a tumour in the lungs, pancreas, or adrenal glands. Although acromegaly generally affects middle-aged adults, it can strike at any age. In children, this condition is often referred to as gigantism.
The enlargement of bones and tissues, particularly the hands and feet, is a common sign of acromegaly. Over time, people will begin to notice their rings, shoes, or gloves no longer fit. They may also notice an enlarged tongue or more widely spaced or misaligned teeth. Or they may notice other changes to their facial features, such as a protruding jaw or brow, thicker lips, or coarsened skin.
Because the physical changes associated with acromegaly occur gradually, often over several years, those with this condition may go undiagnosed for some time. At least 2,000 Canadians are affected by acromegaly, with still more waiting to be diagnosed. Acromegaly is usually treated with surgery, medication, or radiation.
Acromegaly symptoms can vary from person to person but generally include:
- enlarged hands and feet
- misaligned or widely spaced teeth
- enlarged tongue
- protruding jaw or brow
- coarsened, oily skin
- vision changes
- excess sweating or body odour
- gradual deepening of voice
- joint pain
- tingling or pains in the hands
- increased body hair
- severe snoring or sleep apnea
- loss of libido
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please see your doctor.
Acromegaly trivia: The term acromegaly comes from Greek words meaning “extremities” (akros) and “big” (megas). The term was proposed in 1886 by Pierre Marie, a French neurologist, who published the first description of the disease and its pathology.