Acromegaly

Pituitary gland
The pituitary gland is responsible for producing growth hormone (GH). Overproduction of the hormone by the pituitary gland — or by a hormone-producing tumor — leads to a condition known as acromegaly.

Acromegaly is a condition in which a tumor produces excess growth hormone (GH) after normal adult height has been reached. The disorder is characterized by slowly growing hands and feet, coarser facial features, spaced teeth, enlarged tongue, underbite and skin tags. Internally, acromegaly causes organs to enlarge and can contribute to the development of diabetes, heart disease, and even colon polyps.

Human growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and is part of complex interaction of many hormones, including growth-hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), and somatostatin. In normal development, the interplay among these hormones regulates growth through puberty, then stops it at maturity. When that normal balance is disrupted and GH production is in excess, the resulting condition is called acromegaly. (Excess production of GH in children is a related condition called gigantism, so called because it can lead to abnormally large body size as still-growing bones are exposed to too much of the hormone.)

Acromegaly is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged patients, although the disorder likely starts at a younger age — many people do not immediately recognize that their bodies are not changing normally. Increases in ring size or shoe size are often dismissed as signs of aging. When combined with other symptoms, however, these physical changes can be indicators of a hormonal disorder.

What Causes Acromegaly?
The overproduction of growth hormone that leads to acromegaly is most commonly caused by a benign pituitary tumor. Removing the tumor usually resolves the condition. (Find out more about surgery for a pituitary tumor.) In rare instances, acromegaly is caused by a hormone-producing tumor elsewhere in the body; surgical removal of that tumor can often cure the condition.

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Reviewed by: Georgiana Dobri, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: December 2020
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI

Our Care Team

  • Vice Chair for Clinical Research
  • David and Ursel Barnes Professor in Minimally Invasive Surgery
  • Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Otolaryngology
  • Director, Center for Epilepsy and Pituitary Surgery
  • Co-Director, Surgical Neuro-oncology
Phone: 212-746-5620
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Leon Levy Research Fellow
  • Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute
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  • Assistant Professor of Neuroendocrinology in Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine
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  • Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
  • Robert G. Schwager, MD ’67 Education Scholar, Cornell University
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  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist
  • Alvina and Willis Murphy Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery
  • Director, Brain Metastases Program
  • Co-director, William Rhodes and Louise Tilzer-Rhodes Center for Glioblastoma
Phone: 212-746-1996

Reviewed by: Georgiana Dobri, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: December 2020
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI

Weill Cornell Medicine Brain & Spine Center 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787