Acromegaly Treatment in Lincoln Park, NJ
Do you have exceptionally large hands or feet? Do you experience numbness or burning in your limbs, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, or sleep apnea? You may have acromegaly (called gigantism in children), a hormonal disorder caused by non-cancerous pituitary tumors.
While acromegaly itself typically isn't life-threatening, its symptoms can lead to severe medical complications. Seeing your healthcare provider is always a good idea so you can be properly diagnosed and given a customized treatment plan.
What Are the Symptoms of Acromegaly?
The most noticeable acromegaly symptom is the abnormal growth of your hands and feet; you may notice your fingers widening or your shoe size increasing at a rapid rate.
Other common acromegaly symptoms include:
- arthritis caused by bone and cartilage overgrowth
- protruding jaw and brow
- enlarged facial features
- widely spaced teeth
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- joint aches
- thick, coarse skin
- low libido
- skin tags
- high blood pressure
- menstrual disorders
While some acromegaly symptoms are specific, others are generalized and may not be identified right away.
Acromegaly itself isn't life-threatening, but its symptoms can be fatal if left untreated. Complications include:
- heart disease
- colon cancer
- greater susceptibility to infections
- kidney failure
Seeking acromegaly treatment as early as possible is critical, as acromegaly patients have about twice the chance of dying prematurely compared to people without the condition.
What Causes Acromegaly?
Acromegaly is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumor called pituitary adenoma in your pituitary gland, located at the base of your brain. The presence of these tumors causes your pituitary gland to produce too much growth hormone (GH). High GH then raises your level of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone found in your liver that initiates growth. This overabundance of GH and IFG-1 causes the symptoms of acromegaly.
In about 5% of cases, acromegaly is caused by a tumor located elsewhere, such as in your pancreas, lung, or other part of your brain . These tumors may produce GH on their own, or they can produce GHRH, a hormone that stimulates your pituitary to overproduce GH.
Acromegaly is usually diagnosed in middle-aged adults, but it can also affect children. In children, the condition is known as gigantism. It's a very rare condition, affecting about 2-3 people out of every million, and is never passed down genetically.
How Is Acromegaly Diagnosed?
To diagnose acromegaly, your physician will give you a physical examination and discuss your medical history and your symptoms. If acromegaly is suspected, they will recommend blood testing to confirm the diagnosis. A sample of your blood will be drawn and sent to a lab, where it will be tested for high levels of IGF-1.
Your physician may also want to perform an oral glucose test. You'll drink sugar water, and your doctor will then measure your GH levels. Normally, sugar water causes the pituitary to stop producing GH and lower its levels in your blood. If this does not occur, it's a strong sign of a tumor in your pituitary gland.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) can usually detect the tumor causing your acromegaly. If no pituitary tumor is detected, your healthcare provider will probably recommend imaging for other possible tumor areas, including your chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
How Is Acromegaly Treated?
Acromegaly is a rare condition with about 60 cases in 1,000,000.1 Still, acromegaly treatment is available, with the goal to normalize your high GH and IGF-1 levels. These treatments include surgery, radiation, medication, or a combination of these options.
In the event that your acromegaly is caused by a pituitary tumor, surgery is usually the first line of treatment. However, total tumor removal is very difficult and can be risky. In many cases, surgery alone can't normalize your hormone levels, and other treatments are needed.
Surgery is fairly effective, but it presents risks. Your normal pituitary tissue can get damaged, requiring you to need lifelong hormone replacement therapy . Cerebrospinal fluid leaks can occur, and in some cases, meningitis.
Even when surgery is successful, you'll need long-term monitoring in case tumors recur. Though your hormone levels will likely improve, they won't return to normal, and you'll need additional forms of treatment.
Radiation is usually a second option if you can't have surgery or if surgery didn't remove your tumor completely. Radiation therapy is typically a slow and potentially painful process, but it can be a permanent cure. It can take 10 or 20 years before your tumor is completely removed. During that time, you'll receive precise high-dose radiation beams aimed at your tumor.
While this treatment option is very effective, it presents a risk of side effects. Your pituitary hormones will decline, which means you'll likely begin hormone replacement therapy at some point. Radiation can also affect your fertility and cause tissue damage. Rarely, you may experience vision loss and brain injury. Some patients develop additional tumors years later in areas affected by radiation.
Many drugs can treat acromegaly symptoms, but they won't cure the condition. If surgery or radiation doesn't normalize your GH levels, you'll likely have to take medication for the rest of your life. The most effective medications are somatostatin analogs, GH receptor antagonists, and dopamine agonists.
Somatostatin analogs halt GH production and are effective in the majority of acromegaly cases. These drugs can also reduce tumor size somewhat, but they will not remove tumors completely. While these drugs are safe for long-term use, they can cause gastrointestinal side effects and gallstones. GH receptor antagonists are administered as a monthly injection.
GH receptor antagonists normalize IGF-1 levels in most patients. They work by disrupting your GH action, though they can't normalize your GH levels. These daily injections are well tolerated, but they may cause headaches, fatigue, and abnormal liver function.
Dopamine agonists are the third type of medication. These drugs aren't as useful for lowering GH or IGF-1 levels, but they're effective for patients who have slightly high GH levels and both acromegaly and hyperprolactinemia, or an overabundance of the hormone prolactin. These drugs can be used along with somatostatin analogs and GH receptor antagonists. You may experience headaches, nausea, or lightheadedness while taking dopamine agonists.
Though homeopathy does not seem to have significant treatment for acromegaly, treatments do include liquorice and figwort. Side effects of figwort may include heart problems, and pregnant or nursing women and children should not use it.
Reserve Your Appointment Now
Acromegaly is a serious medical concern caused by brain tumors, but many treatment options are available to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Seeking treatment is vital, because untreated acromegaly causes severe health complications which can be fatal.
1. Evran, Mehtap, Murat Sert, and Tamer Tetiker. "Clinical Experiences and Success Rates of Acromegaly Treatment: The Single Center Results of 62 Patients." BMC Endocrine Disorders 14 (2014): 97. PMC. Web. 27 July 2018.
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