Hello and welcome back to Medical Terminology Corner!
Today I would like to talk with you about Acromegaly.
Acromegaly (from Greek ἄκρος — limb and Greek μέγας — big/ large) — is a disease related to the dysfunction of the front lobe of the Pituitary gland or Hypophysis. The name of the front lobe of the pituitary gland is Adenohypophysis (aden/o – root word for “gland”). Acromegalic patients will have an enlargement (widening and thickening) of wrists, feet, cranial (skull) bones especially facial part of the cranium (crani/o is a root word for “skull”).
What is interesting about this disease is that any (good) doctor can diagnose the patient just by looking at him/ her. But of course, additional testing will be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
X-ray will show definitive changes in the bones and joints. There will be endocrine changes: diabetes, thyroid and gonad (reproductive glands) dysfunction, and arterial hypertension (high blood pressure). Head CT or MRI could show pituitary enlargement or pituitary mass. But the key factor in the diagnosis of this disease would be an increase of pituitary produced hormones in the blood – especially an increase of somatotropin or growth hormone (HGH – human growth hormone).
The overproduction of the growth hormone could happen due to many reasons: injury or inflammation of this part of the brain or development of the pituitary tumor, which most of the time is benign. Due to the increase of the hormone endocrine dysfunction develops as well. Patients will suffer from diabetes and infertility.
Clinically the disease develops in males and females, usually from 20 to 40 years of age. At the beginning patients have general complaints of fatigue, joint pain, numbness, sleep disturbances, sweatiness, and increase in body hair growth. Females have problems with menstrual cycle. Low potency and low libido develop in males. Slowly typical characteristics of acromegaly develop: enlargement of the supraorbital ridge (thickening of the forehead), cheekbones, chin, nose, lips and ears. Skin folds develop on the face. The voice is gruff due to the voice cords thickening. Chest wall enlarges, spine deforms. The bones are thickening and increasing in width. Muscle weakness and loss of muscle strength develop after brief increase in muscle strength due to increase in muscle mass.
On the photographs below you can see how this disease completely changes the appearance of this attractive woman. At 52 years old she is an acromegalic giant – typical appearance of the patient suffering from acromegaly.
Next time I will tell you what scientists think about battle of David and Goliath and how acromegaly fits in that story.