Acromegaly is also sometimes known as Pituitary Giantism. Growth hormone is normally secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland and controls the rate of growth of the individual, as well as determining the timing of sexual maturity. Sometimes, due to injury or a small tumor on the pituitary, the gland continues to secrete growth hormone for much longer, and in greater quantities, than it should. The affected person will continue to grow upwards, as well as outward, until secretion is stopped, by medical or surgical intervention.
Persons with Acromegaly have many of their bones, such as the lower jaw, growing outward. This leads to a characteristic appearance of a “lantern jaw” and large lips, thickening of the fingers and feet, and enlargement of cartilage structures, such as the nose and Adam’s apple, the latter resulting in a deeper than normal voice. The condition is not genetic, and therefore not inherited, but some families seem to carry genes that promote or encourage the condition.
The major risk in Acromegaly is that the thickening of the bones and cartilage can restrict the function of the heart, lungs and other organs. The condition is usually discovered in the teenage years, and surgical or hormone therapy can be prescribed. When it occurs in later years, it is usually the result of an injury to the pituitary, such as a car accident. New micro-surgical techniques have been very successful in the treatment of Acromegaly.