Growth hormone (GH) controls the growth of soft tissue and bone. Elevated GH causes an excess of bone and soft tissue growth. In adults, this can cause a rare disorder called acromegaly. It can cause serious complications and early death if not treated.
In young children, bone fusion and growth is still occurring. Excess GH can cause a similar condition called gigantism.
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The pituitary gland is a small gland located at the base of the brain. It produces many hormones, including GH.
In most cases, the elevation of GH is caused by a benign tumor of this gland. In a small number of cases, malignant tumors of other organs (pancreas, adrenal, lung) may be the source of excess GH.
Risk factors that increase your chance of developing acromegaly include:
- Family history (rare)
- Age: 40-45 years old
Symptoms usually develop slowly over time.
In children, the bones are elongated and cause soft tissue swelling. If not treated, children can grow to a height of 7-8 feet.
Symptoms and complications in adults may include:
Abnormally large growth and deformity of the:
- Hands (rings no longer fit)
- Feet (need a bigger size shoe)
- Face (protrusion of brow and lower jaw)
- Jaw (teeth do not line up correctly when the mouth is closed)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Skin changes, such as:
- Thickened, oily, and sometimes darkened skin
- Severe acne
- Excessive sweating and unpleasant body order due to enlargement of the sweat glands
- Deepening voice due to enlarged sinuses, vocal cords, and soft tissues of the throat
- Fatigue and weakness in legs and arms
- Sleep apnea
- Arthritis and other joint problems, especially in the jaw
- Abnormally large liver, kidney