Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Acromegaly

3-minute read

Acromegaly is a disorder that mostly affects people in middle age, causing certain parts of the body to grow larger. It can be treated effectively, especially if diagnosed early.

What is acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a disorder that affects adults and is caused by overproduction of growth hormone. Growth hormone (also called human growth hormone, GH or HGH) controls the normal growth of the body’s tissues, organs and bones, as well as helping control its metabolism.

A similar condition, known as gigantism, can occur in children and can make them grow very tall. Adults with too much growth hormone don’t grow exceptionally tall because once they have gone through puberty, their long bones don’t grow any longer.

Causes of acromegaly

Acromegaly is caused by the pituitary gland in the brain producing too much growth hormone, usually because of a benign tumour in the gland. Pituitary tumours (also known as pituitary adenomas) tend to grow very slowly.

Very rarely, acromegaly can be caused by hormone-producing tumours in other parts of the body, such as the lungs, pancreas or adrenal glands.

Symptoms of acromegaly

The main signs of acromegaly are:

  • changes to facial features, such as a broadening nose, enlarging jaw and more widely spaced teeth
  • enlarged lips or tongue
  • enlarged hands and feet

A pituitary tumour can also cause a range of other problems, such as:

If you have symptoms of acromegaly, see your doctor for advice.

Diagnosis of acromegaly

Because the changes happen slowly, it can take a while for you to notice them and to get medical advice. But getting an early diagnosis is important since it can lower your chances of developing problems such as diabetes or heart disease.

Tests used to diagnose acromegaly include:

  • blood tests – to measure the level of hormones
  • oral glucose tolerance test – to see how growth hormone levels change when blood sugar level is increased
  • an MRI or CT scan – to see the pituitary gland
  • x-rays of the skull and jaw – to check bone thickness

Treatment of acromegaly

Treatments can reduce your production of growth hormone to a normal level and help control symptoms. The options for treatment are:

  • surgery – to remove a pituitary tumour
  • radiotherapy – to shrink a pituitary tumour
  • drug therapy – to counter the effects of too much growth hormone

These treatments can be used on their own or in any combination.

Living with acromegaly

Living with acromegaly can be a stressful experience, particularly while you are waiting for a diagnosis, treatment or for your symptoms to improve. However, treatment is often successful. While it might not be possible to reverse all changes to the shape and size of your bones, many people notice their bodies gradually returning to normal over time.

More information

Last reviewed: February 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Growth hormone - Better Health Channel

Some athletes and bodybuilders wrongly believe that taking synthetic growth hormone will help build up their muscles.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Acromegaly - Lab Tests Online AU

Acromegaly is a condition in adults resulting from excess growth hormone

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Acromegaly | myVMC

Acromegaly is a chronic metabolic disorder caused by the presence of too much growth hormone GH and IGF-I hypersecretion

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Acromegaly - Better Health Channel

Acromegaly is caused by an excess of growth hormone in adults, which causes the overgrowth of bones in the face, hands, feet and internal organs.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Growth hormone - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for growth hormone

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Growth Hormone for Weight Loss | myVMC

Growthhormone reduces obesity through its actions on two enzymes which control fat accumulation and the breakdown of stored triglycerides into free fatty acids.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Bromocriptine-BC | myVMC

Bromocriptine BC is a hormonal agent used to suppress lactation and reduce prolactin levels in the treatment of hormone disorders.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Pituitary tumour

Generally, pituitary tumours are benign (not cancerous) and slow growing, and pituitary cancers are rare. Benign tumours don’t spread to other parts of the body, so there is no chance of secondary tumours developing. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy and medication.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

IGF-1 - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for IGF-1

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Pituitary Gland Cancer (Carcinoma of the Pituitary gland) | myVMC

Pituitary gland cancer or carcinoma of the pituitary gland is a rare cancer treated with radiotherapy and surgery. It runs in families.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback