ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Acromegaly?

Updated on April 14, 2011

Acromegaly is a rare disease, a form of giantism, due to disorder of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. One of the hormones of this gland regulates growth of the body.

If the disease occurs in early life, there is general skeletal over-growth producing giantism. If in later life, there is marked enlargement of the hands, feet, and skull. The lower jaw is especially increased and projects beyond the upper jaw. It is often associated with defects of vision through pressure of the pituitary growth upon the nerves of the eyes. The disease runs a very long course. Occasionally, benefit may be obtained by a surgical operation. Deep X-ray treatment may benefit some cases.

Cause and Characteristics of Acromegaly

The pituitary gland contains several kinds of cells that secrete different hormones. In acromegaly there is an increase in the number of growth hormone secreting cells. This increase in cell number usually produces a pituitary tumor, which may press on the optic nerves and interfere with vision.

The excessive secretion of growth hormone causes many abnormalities. The most obvious changes are in certain soft tissues, cartilage, and bones. These changes give a characteristic burly, large-jawed appearance to patients with the disease.

The skin of the face is puffy, and the facial lines are exaggerated. The nose and ears enlarge; the larynx is big, and the voice is husky. The jawbone lengthens and protrudes forward. Because the rib cartilages lengthen, the chest cage becomes barrel-like. Bony overgrowth in the spine causes difficulty in bending forward and also causes arthritis. Less obvious abnormalities are increased hairiness, sweating, enlargement of the thyroid gland, diabetes, and sometimes high blood pressure.

Actor Richard Kiel (Jaws in the Bond film Moonraker) has the hormonal condition known as acromegaly.
Actor Richard Kiel (Jaws in the Bond film Moonraker) has the hormonal condition known as acromegaly.

Acromegaly Symptoms

Acromegaly is usually benign and lasts many years. (Rarely, there is bleeding into the pituitary tumor, which requires quick surgical intervention.) Patients sometimes have bothersome symptoms in various areas: severe headaches; tingling and numbness in hands and feet; back, hip, or knee pain due to arthritis; or severe weakness and wasting of muscles. Except for the change in appearance, most patients tolerate the disease well and are relatively healthy. The major complications are due to diabetes or high blood pressure, when they exist. Occasionally, remaining pituitary tissue is destroyed by the tumor, causing failure of the glands that are dependent upon the pituitary.

Acromegaly Treatment

X-ray treatment of the pituitary region is the most commonly used method. In most cases, this treatment stops the growth of the tumor and, in some cases, reduces the excessive growth hormone secretion. If visual damage is sudden or great, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Jon Danzig 

      7 years ago

      Readers may also be interested to read my comprehensive review and critique of the latest guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of acromegaly.

    • Longtail profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      It's not something I've seen in person. But I think there's a few actors (as mentioned above and also the big guy in the movie The Longest Yard) who have the condition.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Huh! Never heard of Acromegaly! And I'd never imagine thinking of an X-ray treatment to address any sort of condition... how interesting!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)