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Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder that occurs when the pituitary gland produces excessive growth hormone. This excess hormone leads to the enlargement of certain body parts, such as the hands and feet, and can cause a range of other symptoms. In this article, we will explore the various manifestations of acromegaly and discuss its causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Enlarged Hands and Feet

One of the most noticeable signs of acromegaly is the enlargement of the hands and feet. This occurs gradually over time and is often accompanied by joint pain and stiffness. The increased size of the hands and feet can make it difficult to find shoes that fit properly and can lead to discomfort and difficulty with everyday tasks.

Protruding Jaw and Brow

Another characteristic feature of acromegaly is the protrusion of the jaw and brow. This can give the face a more pronounced and angular appearance. The growth of the jaw can also lead to dental problems, such as overcrowding and misalignment of the teeth.

Thickened Skin

Individuals with acromegaly may also experience thickened and coarse skin. This can be particularly noticeable on the hands, feet, and face. The skin may become rough and develop a leathery texture. In some cases, skin tags or small growths may also appear.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Acromegaly can contribute to the development of sleep apnea, a condition characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. The enlargement of the soft tissues in the throat can obstruct the airway, leading to snoring and disrupted sleep. Sleep apnea can have significant impacts on overall health and well-being if left untreated.

Joint Pain

Joint pain is a common symptom of acromegaly and can affect various parts of the body. The excess growth hormone can cause the bones and cartilage to grow abnormally, leading to discomfort and limited mobility. Joint pain is often most pronounced in the hands, knees, and hips.


Many individuals with acromegaly experience persistent fatigue and a general lack of energy. This can be attributed to the hormonal imbalances caused by the condition. Fatigue can significantly impact daily life and may make it difficult to perform routine tasks or engage in physical activity.


Headaches are a common complaint among individuals with acromegaly. These headaches can vary in intensity and may be accompanied by visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or double vision. The headaches are often caused by the pressure exerted on the brain and surrounding tissues due to the enlarged pituitary gland.

Visual Disturbances

Acromegaly can affect vision in various ways. The enlargement of the pituitary gland can compress the optic nerves, leading to visual disturbances. These may include blurred vision, tunnel vision, or difficulty with peripheral vision. It is important for individuals with acromegaly to have regular eye examinations to monitor any changes in vision.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing acromegaly typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and hormone level testing. Imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, may also be used to visualize the pituitary gland and assess its size and structure.

If acromegaly is diagnosed, treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Transsphenoidal surgery is often the first-line treatment for acromegaly. It involves removing the tumor or excess tissue from the pituitary gland to reduce growth hormone production.
  • Medication: Medications, such as somatostatin analogs or growth hormone receptor antagonists, may be prescribed to help regulate growth hormone levels and alleviate symptoms.
  • Radiation therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to shrink or destroy the tumor causing acromegaly. This treatment option is typically reserved for individuals who are not candidates for surgery or who have residual tumor growth after surgery.

It is important for individuals with acromegaly to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan. Regular monitoring of hormone levels and imaging studies is essential to ensure the effectiveness of treatment and to detect any potential complications.

In conclusion, acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder characterized by the enlargement of certain body parts, such as the hands and feet, protruding jaw and brow, thickened skin, snoring and sleep apnea, joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and visual disturbances. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial in managing the symptoms and preventing complications. If you suspect you may have acromegaly or are experiencing any of the associated symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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