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What are the symptoms of acromegaly?

Marvin Bergsneider, MD
Neurosurgery
The symptoms of acromegaly include the following:
  • Very large hands that feel doughy and mushy, like bread dough that hasn't been baked. Doctors can sometimes make the diagnosis just with a handshake.
  • Dramatic changes in facial appearance. The ridge above your eyebrows will become very prominent, as does your nose. Cheeks and jaws can become very large. Space between your teeth increases, because when your jaw gets larger, your teeth spread apart. The tongue can become very large.
  • Many other organs can enlarge, causing problems. Because the soft tissue in the back of your throat enlarges, your voice becomes low. Because of these extra soft tissues, you can also get sleep apnea. This is one way that it's diagnosed. People who develop sleep apnea should be screened for acromegaly.
  • Too much tissue in the wrist area. If too much tissue develops in the wrist area, you can get carpal tunnel syndrome, i.e. pain in your thumb and the side of your hand with repetitive motions.
  • Enlarged heart. When the heart gets enlarged, it doesn't pump efficiently and people with acromegaly can develop heart failure.
Acromegaly can be quite serious. Left untreated, people with acromegaly have a short life span. Unfortunately, many people with acromegaly don't live much beyond age 50.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine

The name acromegaly comes from the Greek words for the terms "extremities" and "enlargement," reflecting one of its most common symptoms-the abnormal growth of hands and feet. Swelling of hands and feet is often an early feature, with patients noticing a change in their ring or shoe size, particularly shoe width. Gradually, bone changes alter the patient's facial features-the brow and lower jaw protrude, the nasal bone enlarges, and teeth space out.

Overgrowth of bone and cartilage often leads to arthritis. When tissue thickens, it may trap nerves, causing carpal tunnel syndrome, which results in numbness and weakness of hands. Body organs, including the heart, may enlarge.

The other symptoms of acromegaly include:

  • Joint aches
  • Thick, coarse, oily skin
  • Skin tags
  • Enlarged lips, nose, and tongue
  • Deepening of the voice due to enlarged sinuses and vocal cords Sleep apnea-breaks in breathing during sleep due to obstruction of the airway
  • Excessive sweating and skin odor
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches
  • Impaired vision
  • Abnormalities of the menstrual cycle and sometimes breast discharge in women
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Decreased libido

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The symptoms of acromegaly become more apparent over the years. Too much growth hormone in the body leads to an enlargement of the muscles, organs and bones. Symptoms include growth of the feet and hands, a change in facial features, a deepening of the voice, a thickening of the ribs and an enlargement of the tongue. Body hair may become thicker and darker, and the sweat glands may become larger, which causes an overproduction of sweat and body odor. People with acromegaly commonly experience joint pain, and without treatment, other complications can develop as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.