Acromegaly and Gigantism

What Are Acromegaly And Gigantism?

The pituitary gland is a gland in the brain that manages physical growth and development. When the pituitary gland is not functioning properly, the body experiences problems with growth. Depending on the hormones affected, these conditions can lead to changes in appearance or unrestricted growth. Two conditions, gigantism and acromegaly, occur when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone due to a tumor on the gland. Understanding these conditions will help you make wise decisions about your health or the health of your children.

What is Gigantism?

As its name implies, gigantism causes the individual to grow taller than average. This condition, which most often affects children, occurs due to a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland that creates too much growth hormone. Children with gigantism will grow unusually tall, and many will experience delayed puberty.

Unfortunately, diagnosing gigantism can be difficult for parents, because the condition does not cause many signs other than unusual height. If the family is an unusually tall family, this may simply be attributed to a growth spurt or the child's genetic makeup.

Early Diagnosis of Gigantism Is Important

Early diagnosis of gigantism is important for the child's health and well-being. The condition is treatable by removing the tumor, but once the growth has occurred the child is not going to shrink back to an average height. For this reason, the earlier the condition is treated, the better the outcome is for the child.

What is Acromegaly?

The definition of acromegaly is a disease caused by noncancerous tumors in the pituitary gland that cause secretions of growth hormone. The difference between acromegaly and gigantism is that acromegaly occurs in adults, typically between the ages of 30 and 50. The increased levels of growth hormone can affect many systems in the body, including the cardiac and musculoskeletal system. Individuals with acromegaly may experience changes in their appearance as well, including increased spacing between teeth and enlargement of the facial features, feet and hands. The metabolism can also change. Overall, acromegaly is a rare condition.

Like gigantism, acromegaly can typically be treated through surgically removing or reducing the tumor. The earlier the tumor is detected, the sooner the treatment can occur, and the fewer long-term changes in appearance the individual will experience, which is why knowing the definition of acromegaly is important. Those who suspect they may be suffering from this pituitary condition should consult with a doctor as soon as possible.