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Acromegaly

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a condition caused by increased levels of growth hormone (GH). GH helps your body use energy and build bones, muscles, and tissues. GH is made by your pituitary gland, a small organ in your brain. A benign (not cancer) tumor on your pituitary gland is the most common cause of acromegaly.

What are the signs and symptoms of acromegaly?

Signs and symptoms may develop slowly and get worse over time. You may have any of the following:

  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • A large forehead, a jaw that sticks out, or teeth with large spaces
  • Rough, thick, oily skin, or skin tags
  • Heavy sweating
  • Severe headaches
  • Joint or bone pain, muscle weakness, or getting tired easily
  • Problems with your vision

How is acromegaly diagnosed?

  • Blood tests are done to measure your GH and other hormone levels. You may be told not to eat or drink anything for 10 to 12 hours before the test. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the blood test you need.
  • A CT or MRI will check for a tumor on your pituitary gland. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pituitary show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is acromegaly treated?

  • Medicine may be given to help lower your GH level.
  • Radiation therapy or radiosurgery uses high-energy x-ray beams to kill tumor cells and decrease the size of your pituitary tumor. Radiosurgery may help decrease the risk that the pituitary tumor will grow back.
  • Surgery may be done to remove a tumor on your pituitary gland.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Use skin care products that help decrease oil. Ask your healthcare provider what creams or soaps can help decrease oil on your skin.
  • Apply ice or heat to painful joints. Both can help decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Place ice on your joint for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. You can apply a heat pack or warm compress for 20 minutes every 2 hours.
  • Use support devices. You may be given splints to wear on your hands to help your joints rest and to decrease inflammation. While you sleep, use a pillow that is firm enough to support your neck and head.

What problems are caused by acromegaly?

Acromegaly can increase your risk for any of the following:

  • Heart disease or high blood pressure
  • An enlarged heart or heart failure
  • Type II diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Growths in your colon (polyps) or colon cancer
  • A condition that causes you to stop breathing while you are sleeping (obstructive sleep apnea)

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a severe headache that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You suddenly lose your vision.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment, or get worse.
  • Someone sees you stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep.
  • You notice changes in your vision.
  • You think you might be pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Acromegaly

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