Acromegaly symptoms and signs
Acromegaly is associated with many symptoms. Most of these can be directly related to having excess levels of growth hormone in the body and some may more likely be due to the pituitary gland tumour pressing on nearby parts of the brain.
The pituitary gland tumour can also compress the normal pituitary gland and prevent it from working properly. A deficiency of one or more hormones produced by the pituitary gland is called hypopituitarism.
This website discusses the most common symptoms that may – or may not – be a sign of acromegaly. If you experience any of the symptoms given below or have any medical questions about your physical condition, please consult your doctor.
Is it a symptom or sign?
A symptom is something that a person can feel or report to a healthcare professional, such as having a headache, joint aches or excessive sweating.
A sign is something that a healthcare professional finds upon examination, such as an altered jawline, having unusually thick skin or high blood pressure.
Features of acromegaly
How does acromegaly affect people?
Acromegaly can affect people in different ways. Some people with acromegaly may notice physical changes over time, such as rings not fitting on their fingers or gloves feeling tighter, or they may find their shoes feel smaller than they used to. Some people will notice the spaces in between their teeth becoming wider or experience a change in the way their face is looking.
Other people may experience visual changes or have nonspecific symptoms, such as aching joints or general tiredness, headaches or feeling low, that may be put down to other conditions at first.
In women aged 40 or older, symptoms may be wrongly attributed to the start of menopause.
Excessive snoring that your partner complains about or not sleeping well, gradually gaining weight and sweating excessively are other features of acromegaly.
What physical changes can occur long term?
Over many years the shape of the face may change, with gradual bone changes causing the nose and brow to enlarge, the lower jaw to protrude, the gaps between the teeth to widen or teeth to become misaligned. The voice may deepen and become huskier as the vocal cords thicken.
These symptoms and signs develop gradually so you, and even those close to you who see you every day, may not be aware of them for some time.
In fact, friends or family who have not seen you in a while, or a new healthcare professional, may be the first to notice physical changes suggesting that you may have acromegaly.
Comparing your current appearance with that in an older photograph may help you see if any changes you might be experiencing could be due to acromegaly.
Acromunity fast facts
The diagnosis of acromegaly is often delayed because the features develop gradually and are not specific at first. They may be wrongly attributed to the normal aging process. As a result, it is not uncommon for people to remain undiagnosed for several years, even up to 10 years in some cases.
Could your symptoms be due to acromegaly?
Take a look at the questions below that ask about some of the symptoms that people with acromegaly may experience and the signs that clinicians may notice.
Think about your own circumstances and do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion as you may be experiencing symptoms that are not listed here, but which when considered together could point towards a diagnosis of acromegaly.
Remember that symptoms and signs can be discreet or nonspecific, may take several years to emerge and may not even be recognized as acromegaly until after you are formally diagnosed by a healthcare professional.
If you answer yes to several of these questions, or you suspect you might have acromegaly, then it may be worth discussing your answers with a doctor who can refer you to a specialist who treats people with endocrine disorders.
It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you have not already been diagnosed as the information provided here is not intended to replace professional advice.
Symptoms and signs of acromegaly checklist
Over the past few years:
- Has your shoe size changed?
- Have you noticed any change in the size of your hands? For example, have you needed to buy bigger gloves or noticed a change in your ring size?
- Have you or has your dentist noticed any changes to your bite or jaw shape?
- Have your teeth become more spaced out or misaligned?
- Has your tongue felt too big for your mouth or bigger than it should?
- Have you noticed any changes in your voice? Has it become deeper or huskier?
- Have you regularly had trouble sleeping or often feel tired in the day?
- Has anyone told you that you snore at night? If so, do you have temporary episodes where you stop breathing (i.e., sleep apnea)?
- Have you had regular or painful headaches?
- Have you noticed any changes in your field of vision?
- Have you found that you sweat a lot more than before?
- Have you experienced joint pain on a regular basis?
- Have you experienced any low mood that you cannot really explain?
- Has the normal pattern of your periods changed?
- Have you felt tired more than usual on a regular basis which prevented you from doing things?
- Have you stopped doing or avoided doing any activities because it was too painful to complete them?
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Learn about acromegaly
Learn about acromegaly including how excess growth hormone released by a pituitary tumour causes this slowly evolving condition, and the early symptoms and signs of acromegaly.
Find out more about acromegaly
Find out how acromegaly is diagnosed and the tests that healthcare professionals may use to assess acromegaly symptoms
Read about acromegaly treatment options, including surgery, medication and radiotherapy, and the goals of therapy
Read answers to some common questions that patients with acromegaly have asked