What is Hypertrophy?

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  • Originally Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2019
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Hypertrophic is a medical term that translates to enlarged, and hypertrophy would refer to the enlargement of various areas of the body; these areas could include muscles, skin, appendages or organs. In this condition, at the most basic level, cell enlargement occurs. This should be considered as distinct from growth through cells dividing and creating new cells, which is frequently called hyperplasia. Causes of hypertrophic growth vary depending on where the growth occurs.

Those looking to understand this condition must realize that it comes in many forms, many of which are medically problematic. Though it’s not accurate to say that all forms of hypertrophy are bad, most of them can be medically significant. They may cause minor to significant problems for the person who experiences a hypertrophic condition.

Positive and Negative Instances

A cursory web search for the term hypertrophy is likely to reveal opposed positive and negative articles concerning the topic. For example, when articles discuss enlargement of the muscles, they may be on sites that deal with bodybuilding. In this case, creating hypertrophy or bigger muscles is typically desirable, and there are many tips on how to do this by lifting weights, in addition to lots of hormone and nutritional products for sale that promise to bulk up muscles. Yet while enlarging muscles may be a positive instance of hypertrophic enlargement, especially for those interested in bodybuilding, in most cases hypertrophy of other parts of the body is essentially negative and potentially dangerous.


Effects on the Heart

When heart cells get bigger, as is often the case when heart disease is present, the total heart works less efficiently. Some people suffer from conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which includes significant heart muscle enlargement. Mostly genetic or caused by high blood pressure, this dangerous condition decreases the size of the heart's chambers, reducing blood flow, and can sometimes necessitate transplant or removal of part of the heart’s tissue in order to get the heart to function better.

Effects on Organs and Glands

There are many organs and glands that can become hypertrophic, for example, the thyroid gland can become hypertrophic as a result of the thyroid releasing too many hormones. This causes the thyroid to cut down on thyroid hormone production, which may possibly require medication or removal of the thyroid. Tonsils and adenoids, when they get too big due to bacteria or viruses, could be called hypertrophic. Also, as many men age, they may suffer from the prostate getting larger from infection, which may be referred to as hypertrophy of the prostate gland.

Other Examples

Other areas of the body can become hypertrophic. Skin cells can enlarge, especially when injury or stretching has occurred to the skin, and some scars are basically the result of hypertrophy of the skin, which causes their unusual appearance. A few women experience extreme breast enlargement, especially during pregnancy or when they reach puberty; not only does this hypertrophy cause discomfort, but it may also result in hypertrophic scarring on the skin with long-lasting evidence of stretch marks.


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Post 1

I’m a 25-year-old guy who is interested in bulking up. I’m a dedicated runner and I’m very athletic, but I would really like to start building muscle (especially in my arms). I wanted to find out if there is any way to build muscles and definition fast without dealing with stretch marks. I know some guys who bulked up quickly and look great, but they have some really bad stretch marks on their arms and I don’t want that. Are there any natural supplements that I can take along with a regular weight-training regime that will help add muscle quickly without getting stretch marks? I'm just really tired of looking so scrawny.

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