When to seek medical advice
If you have some of the signs and symptoms associated with acromegaly,
contact your doctor for an evaluation. Acromegaly usually develops
slowly, and even your family members may not initially notice the
gradual physical changes that occur with the disorder. Early diagnosis
is important so that the disease can be treated properly. Your primary
care doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist, a specialist who will
be more familiar with recognizing and treating this disorder.
Screening and diagnosis
On average, the diagnosis of acromegaly is delayed by 5 to 10 years
after signs and symptoms first appear. To begin the diagnostic process,
your doctor will take a complete medical history and conduct a physical
exam. Then he or she may recommend the following steps:
GH and IGF-I
After you've fasted overnight, your doctor will take a blood sample
to measure your levels of GH and IGF-I. Elevated levels of these
hormones suggest acromegaly.
Your doctor may perform another test called the glucose tolerance
test, the definitive method for verifying acromegaly. In this test,
your blood levels of GH are measured before and after you drink a
preparation of glucose (sugar). Normally, glucose ingestion
depresses levels of GH. If you have acromegaly, your GH level will
tend to stay high.
Your doctor may recommend that you have imaging or radiologic
procedures — such as computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) scans — that can pinpoint the location and
size of a tumor of your pituitary gland. Even if radiologists see no
tumor of your pituitary, they may look for non-pituitary tumors that
might be responsible for high levels of GH.
Progression of acromegaly can result in major health ramifications.
Complications may include:
An enlarged heart,
which may lead to heart failure
Arthritis of the
large joints: hips, knees and shoulders
growths (polyps) on the lining of your colon
Sleep apnea, a
condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during
Early treatment of acromegaly can prevent these complications from
developing or becoming worse. If untreated, acromegaly and its
complications can lead to premature death.