Pituitary Innovation and Teaching

Pituitary tumours: Types of tumours and symptoms

Growth hormone-producing tumours (Acromegaly)

Growth hormone-producing tumours make too much growth hormone. These tumours lead to a disease called ‘acromegaly’. Acromegaly affects adults, children and teens in different ways.

Adults:
Acromegaly in adults causes the hands, feet, forehead, nose, lips, tongue, and internal organs (like the heart) to get bigger (see Figures 3 and 4).

In adults, acromegaly can lead to:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar
  • heart disease
  • snoring and breathing problems during sleep (known as sleep apnea)
  • sweating
  • skin tags (little growths on the skin; see Figure 4)
  • premature heart attacks
  • growths of lining of the intestine  
  • nerve pressure in the wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome)

Surgery is the most common method for treating acromegaly. Medicine and/or radiation can also help to decrease the amount of growth hormone. If all parts of the tumour are removed with surgery, some of the effects of acromegaly will start to reverse.

Image showing enlarged hand and foot caused by acromegaly.

Figure 3: Enlarged hand and foot in a patient with acromegaly



Figure 4: Acromegaly causes physical changes such as enlarged facial features and skin tags (litle growths on the skin)



Children and teens (before puberty)

In children and teens, who have not started puberty yet, making extra growth hormone causes “gigantism”. Gigantism makes children and teens very tall. The reason why acromegaly results in gigantism in children and teens only (and not adults) is because children’s bones are still growing. Surgery is often the common method for treating acromegaly and gigantism. Medicine and/or radiation can also help to decrease the amount of growth hormone. Even if all parts of the tumour are removed with surgery, those who have grown very tall will remain tall.

 

Page last updated: November 22, 2016