Acromegaly is a disorder of the pituitary gland. It occurs when too much growth hormone is produced once an individual reaches adulthood. The result is having bones increase in size, including the feet, face, and hands. It typically occurs in adults who have reached middle-age. When this occurs in children who are still growing, the same condition is called gigantism instead.
Facts About Acromegaly
1. The incidence rate of acromegaly in the general population is 5.3 per 1 million per year.
2. About 60 out of every 1 million people suffer from the disease at any time
3. This disorder affects men and women equally and generally happens between the ages of 40-60.
4. 6 years. That’s the average amount of time it takes for a patient with acromegaly to receive an accurate diagnosis.
5. The life expectancy of a patient with untreated acromegaly is 50 years. This is because the condition causes cardiomyopathy and ventricular arrhythmia.
6. When acromegaly is adequately treated, life expectancy returns to normal and the other complications remit.
7. In more than 95% of people with acromegaly, a benign tumor of the pituitary gland, called an adenoma, produces excess GH.
8. Most GH-secreting tumors are macro-adenomas, which means they are larger than 1 centimeter in size.
9. Small pituitary adenomas are common, affecting about 17% of the population.
10. Somatostatin analogs [SSAs] are effective in lowering GH levels in up to 70% of patients who take the medication.
11. Up to 20% of patients develop gallstones when taking SSAs, but the gallstones do not usually cause symptoms.
12. It is estimated that about 10,000 people in the United States right now have acromegaly.
13. 816. That’s the number of new cases of acromegaly that will be diagnosed in the US in the next 12 months.
14. Tumors in the pancreas, lungs, or adrenal glands may also cause an even rarer form of acromegaly.
15. A review of GH levels in 1,360 patients worldwide immediately after surgery revealed that 60 percent had random GH levels below 5 ng/ml after average 40ng/ml before the operation.
When left untreated, acromegaly can become life-threatening and lead to serious illnesses. Because the changes occur gradually over time, it is a condition that can be easy to miss for several year. Treatments are available, however, and this includes improvements in the feature enlargement that this condition causes. Most people realize they have this disorder when they have feet that suddenly start growing or they can put on jewelry they have always worn.
Early detection helps to provide better results. If you are noticing changes in your hands, feet, or skull, then be aware of these facts and schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns.
How Effective Are the Treatments For Acromegaly?
Surgery is the recommended option when acromegaly is the diagnosis. This will remove the benign tumor that is causing the health issues and will return the patient to a state of normal living almost immediately. Some tumors are difficult to access because of how they grow, however, so medications become a second line of defense. Some medications are 90% effective at shrinking the tumor, but this means the symptoms resolve over time instead of immediately.
In about 1 in 10 cases of acromegaly, the only option is to shrink the tumor through radiation therapy. Although this has proven to be an effective last resort treatment, the symptoms of acromegaly may last for up to 10 years.
Can Acromegaly Be Prevented?
There is nothing that anyone can do to prevent acromegaly. The best thing to do is to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly with at least 150 minutes of strenuous exercise per week, and get medical checkups on a regular basis.
It is important to seek treatment because acromegaly can cause numerous health issues. Colon polyps and diabetes are the two most serious issues that may lead to premature death. Hypertension is also a common side effect of this disorder and this increases the risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease. This is why the average lifespan of someone with this disorder drops immediately to the age of 50. Once the hormone levels are stabilized, the health risks decrease and so the average lifespan returns to normal.
Acromegaly may be considered a rare disease, but these facts and statistics will help everyone recognize the condition should it appear.