An unusual disease that is characterised by abnormal enlargement of the internal organs, skull, jaw and hands and feet.
Agromegaly is caused by extreme secretion of growth hormone from the anterior pituitary gland at the base of the brain and is the result of an uncancerous pituitary tumour.
If such a tumour develops before puberty, the result is gigantisms (in which growth is accelerated) instead of agromegaly. More often however the tumour after growth in the long bones of the limbs has ceased. This leads to agromegaly, although it can take several years for signs and symptoms of the condition to become visible.
Symptoms and signs
There may be deepening or huskiness of the voice, enlargements of the hands, feet ears and nose, a jutting lower jaw and long face. Symptoms common to any brain tumour such as visual disturbances and headache are also likely.
Diagnosis and treatment
Agromegaly is diagnosed by the measurement of blood levels of growth hormone before and after a quantity of glucose has been administered. Glucose often suppresses the secretion of growth hormone: if the glucose has no effect of the blood level of the hormone, uncontrolled secretion of growth hormone by the pituitary gland can be confirmed. MRI or CT scanning (techniques that produce cross sectional or three dimensional images of the body) may be carried out to uncover a tumour or overgrowth of the pituitary gland.
A tumour of the pituitary gland can be treated by radiotherapy or removed surgically. The drug octreotide prevents growth hormone production and can be used to manage symptoms by an individual awaiting surgery or until the affects of radiotherapy are felt. Bromocriptine occasionally causes the tumour to become smaller.