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Understanding the Disease

Acromegaly

What is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a condition caused by an excess of growth hormone and causes a rise in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). A part of the brain called the pituitary, responsible for producing growth hormone, may be affected by a noncancerous growth called a tumor or adenoma, causing this overproduction of growth hormone (GH) and IGF-1, which can lead to complications associated with the disease. Worldwide, the prevalence of acromegaly is estimated to be 60 cases per million, with an estimated 3 to 4 new cases per million each year. However, recent studies suggest that pituitary adenomas may be more prevalent than previously thought, and that the prevalence of acromegaly may be between 115 and 295 cases per million.

Understanding the Causes of Acromegaly

There are 3 important hormones that circulate throughout your body that regulate many of the most basic activities of your body. These hormones play a key role in acromegaly:

Growth Hormone (GH) - The pituitary releases GH in short spurts throughout the day and night, resulting in constantly varying GH levels. When a person has acromegaly, abnormally high levels of GH are released by the pituitary. Too much GH causes changes in physical characteristics and other aspects of your body.

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) - IGF-1 levels rise whenever GH levels rise; however, IGF-1 (made mostly in the liver) is released more evenly than GH, and IGF-1 levels remain higher longer. When both of these levels are elevated together, they can also cause many of the signs and symptoms of acromegaly.

Somatostatin - One of the main effects of somatostatin is its ability to control the amount of GH in the body. Researchers have taken advantage of this knowledge in developing treatments for acromegaly.

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