Acromegaly has a slow or gradual onset and the symptoms are also slow to appear. Obvious changes in appearance may not be detected immediately unless present photographs or appearance is compared with earlier photographs.
Some of the symptoms of acromegaly include:-
- Enlargement of the hands and feet. The hands appear like spades and feet continue to grow with currently used shoes becoming uncomfortable.
- Joint pains
- Due to excess growth of the hands, nerves of the wrist called the Median nerve may be compressed leading to a painful condition called Carpal tunnel syndrome. Even when carpal tunnel syndrome is not seen there may be a tingling sensation of hands and feet due to entrapment of small nerves.
- Thick, rough and oily skin. There is also excessive sweating, body odour and presence of skin tags. Skin tags are tiny bits of skin tissue hanging from the skin especially of the face and neck.
- Enlargement of lips and nose. There may be a protruding brow and enlarged tongue and jaw. Teeth become wide spaced as well. This alters appearance significantly. There is a protrusion of the lower jaw and this is called prognathism.
- There is deepening and coarsening of voice. This is because there is enlargement of sinuses and vocal cords. Due to enlargement of the tongue, structures within the neck and back of the throat there may be sleep apnea or obstruction of airways during sleep as well. This also leads to day time weakness, fatigue and tiredness due to lack of sleep.
- Due to altered growth of the facial bones there may be presence of headaches and impaired vision. Headaches may also indicate that the growth of the tumor of the pituitary gland is pressing on nearby tissues and nerves.
- There is presence of sexual dysfunction with loss of sex drive or libido and impotence among men and abnormal periods in women.
- Arthritis may be seen commonly.
- Organs of the body like heart, liver, prostate, kidneys and thyroid glands can increase in size.
- Heart disease including high blood pressure, heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities and cardiomyopathies are seen commonly.
- Increased secretion of a hormone Prolactin from the pituitary may lead to galactorrhea (breast discharge) and amenorrhea (absence of periods) in women.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)