ACROMEGALY & TREATMENT
Definition: What is "Acromegaly"?
Acromegaly was derived from the Greek word 'akros' meaning 'extremities' or 'extreme' & 'megalos' which means 'large'. This is a syndrome which results as the pituitary gland has an overproduction of hGH or growth hormone following the closure of the epiphyseal plate. There are several disorders that could cause the pituitary gland to come up with this circumstance. Most of these conditions involve a tumor that produces GH which is derived from a distinctive cell type (called somatotrophs) & named pituitary adenoma.
Symptoms & Signs
The characteristics that are common to acromegaly are serious disfigurement, severe conditions that result into complications & even early death when the condition is left unchecked. The most common age range that is affected by this disorder is the early 20's. The disease is often difficult to diagnose during its early stages & it is often missed for many successive years. The disease only becomes apparent when the external features start to manifest the signs. This disorder is usually linked with gigantism. This is when the patient's feet, hands, nose, ears & lips become thickened. The internal organs also become swollen (more so with the heart which is weakened & also the kidneys); the vocal cords of the patient become weak & thus the voice deepens; a skull expansion at the fontanelle; the brows protrude which often results into ocular distension; the lower jaw also protrudes which also comes with macroglossia & gapping of the teeth. Complications that can result from this disorder are: acute headache; carpal tunnel syndrome; arthritis; enlargement of the heart; hypertension; failure of the heart; diabetes mellitus; kidney failure; optic chiasm compression which leads to vision loss on the outer fields (generally bitemporal hemianopia); an increased sweating of the palms; & production of sebum on the face (also called seborrhea).
Treatment: How to Treat "Acromegaly"?
The objective of treatments is to reduce the production of GH down to the normal levels. This will relieve the tumor pressure on the brain which will preserve the normal function of the pituitary gland. It is also the aim of the treatment to reverse or lessen the symptoms of the disorder. The three most common treatments are surgery (which is the fastest & most effective treatment that is available); radiation therapy (this is a type of treatment that should go together with surgery & drugs) & also drug therapy (the two known medications include Bromocriptine or Parlodel & Sandostatin.