Acromegaly is typically caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland that produces excess growth hormone (GH) production and in turn causes the liver to overproduce another hormone, insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).

Too much GH or IGF-1 in the bloodstream signals the body to grow, resulting in a wide range of symptoms, including the enlargement of hands, feet, internal organs, and many others.

Serious health conditions are associated with the progression of acromegaly, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, respiratory and cardiac disorders, and cerebrovascular disease.

Prevalence

Although considered rare, acromegaly affects roughly 69,000 people in the world and about 24,000 in the U.S.1 —of which an estimated 8,000 are treated chronically with somatostatin analog injections. National Institutes of Health (NIH) cites an annual incidence of three to four new cases per million each year.

Because symptoms often develop slowly, diagnosis may be delayed by years or decades, making it difficult to determine the total number of people with the disease. While acromegaly is most often diagnosed in middle age, it does not appear to be gender-specific, as it affects men and women equally.

Signs & Symptoms

People living with acromegaly can experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Enlargement of the hands, feet, tongue and internal organs
  • Increased sweating
  • Thickening of the facial features, especially the nose
  • More prominent jaw and forehead
  • Spreading out of the teeth
  • Joint pain
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fatigue
  • Pain and tingling in the hands and wrists
  • Large numbers of skin tags
  • Increased incidence of colon polyps

Other serious health conditions associated with the progression of acromegaly include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disorders, and cardiac and cerebrovascular disease.

Footnote

  1. Lavrentaki, Aikaterini & Paluzzi, Alessandro & Wass, John & Karavitaki, Niki. (2016). Epidemiology of Acromegaly: Review of population studies. Pituitary. 20. 10.1007/s11102-016-0754-x.