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What are the Most Common Acromegaly Symptoms?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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The most common acromegaly symptoms are headaches and partial loss of vision. However, because acromegaly involves both a tumorous growth and an increase in hormone levels, this disease can cause a variety of neurological and physical changes. The most obvious physical changes might include swelling of the feet or hands, which is noticeable by a significant change in shoe or ring size; broadening or enlargement of facial features, which can be determined by comparison with old photographs of the individual; and goiter caused by swelling of the thyroid. These visually recognizable acromegaly symptoms might develop gradually over a period of several years.

Acromegaly is a rare pituitary disorder that usually develops in middle age. In this disease, the pituitary gland produces an excess of growth hormone, generally due to the presence of a benign tumor called an adenoma. Neurological acromegaly symptoms, such as headaches, are caused by the pressure of the tumor on nearby tissues. Occasionally, acromegaly symptoms could be caused by a tumor elsewhere in the body, such as in the pancreas or lungs.

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Acromegaly symptoms related to the production of excess growth hormone can cause a variety of enlarged tissues or organs. Enlargement of organs might include the heart, liver, spleen, or kidneys. Enlarged sinuses or vocal cords could lead to gradual deepening or huskiness of the voice. Other types of swollen or enlarged tissues could include an increase in the size of the chest or tongue, protrusion of the lower jaw, enlargement of the nose, or thickening of the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Swelling of tissues could cause chronic sinus congestion or sleep apnea.

Other symptoms that might not be immediately linked to acromegaly include the presence of multiple skin tags, or small outgrowths of the skin, body odor or excess sweat, acne or skin oiliness, chronic fatigue, or muscle weakness. In women, menstrual periods could become irregular, while men could experience difficulty in maintaining or achieving erection. Both genders might experience limited mobility due to chronic back or joint pain.

If untreated, acromegaly can have serious complications, leading to permanent damage and accompanying medical conditions. These could include arthritis, cardiomyopathy, colon polyps, uterine fibroids, diabetes, hypertension, or total loss of vision. While treatment cannot reverse bone growth caused by acromegaly, it can often reduce or cease tissue swelling and lower the individual's risk of serious complications. Treatment could consist of tumor removal by surgery or radiation, the use of medications to reduce growth hormone levels, or both.

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