Medical Questions » Bones Questions » Question No. 153
Question:My father has been rather strange for some months, and now a specialist says he has acromegaly. Can you explain this disease in simple terms for me?
Answer:Acromegaly is a disease characterised by the excessive growth of the hands, feet, jaw, face, tongue and internal organs. Patients also suffer from headaches, sweating, weakness, and loss of vision. It is caused by excess production of growth hormone in the pituitary gland which sits underneath the brain. This hormone is required during normal growth of a child, but if it is produced inappropriately later in life, acromegaly results. The most common reason for this excess production is the development of a tumour in the pituitary gland, but occasionally, tumours elsewhere can secrete abnormal amounts of the hormone. Laboratory tests can be used to prove the diagnosis, and X-rays and CT scans (a special type of X-ray) of the skull can detect the tumour. Treatment will involve specialised microsurgery through the nose, and up into the base of the brain, to remove the tumour. Occasionally irradiation of the tumour may be performed. Treatment is very successful, particularly in younger adults. Sometimes, hormone supplements must be taken long term to replace the normal hormones produced by the destroyed pituitary gland. Diabetes is a common complication of the disease and its treatment.
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