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When your pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone, abnormal growth occurs. This is called acromegaly. The abnormal growth starts in your hands and feet, as soft tissue begins to swell. This rare disease affects mostly middle-aged adults. It can lead to severe illness and even death if not treated.
In children, too much growth hormone causes a condition called gigantism. This leads to a significant increase in height.
Acromegaly happens when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone for a long time. Several reasons may cause this extra amount of hormone to be made. The most common is a benign tumor in the pituitary gland. Most people with the disease have this type of tumor. It is not cancer. Tumors in other parts of the body can also cause acromegaly. But that is rare.
Symptoms may not be seen right away. So acromegaly is often not found until years later. Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and give you a physical exam. In addition, you may need:
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
The goal of treatment is to fix the pituitary gland so it makes normal levels of growth hormone. Treatment of acromegaly depends on what is causing the disease. Most cases are caused by benign tumors on the pituitary gland. Others are caused by tumors in the pancreas, lungs, or adrenal glands. Treatment may include:
If acromegaly isn’t treated, it can lead to several problems. These may include:
The disease also raises your risk for colon polyps. These are small growths on the lining of your colon. They may lead to colorectal cancer.
You should see your healthcare provider on a regular basis. He or she can make sure your treatment is still working. Your provider can also check for any problems. Early treatment can then be started if needed.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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