acromegaly

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

acromegaly

acromegaly (ăk´rōmĕg´əlē), adult endocrine disorder resulting from hypersecretion of growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Since the bones cannot increase in length after full growth is attained, there is a disproportionate thickening of bones, predominantly in the skull and small bones of the hands and feet. Fingers and toes become broadened and spadelike, the skull increases in size, and the cheek bones and jaws protrude. Many of the soft tissues, such as the tongue and liver, enlarge. Frequently glucose metabolism is disturbed, leading to diabetes mellitus. Acromegaly is usually caused by a tumor of the pituitary; treatment consists of irradiation or surgical removal of the tumor. Onset of the disease can also occur in children, before the epiphyses of the bones are closed. In such cases the disorder leads to gigantism.

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