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Definition  

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 growth is still occurring. Excess GH can cause a similar condition called gigantism. Gigantism causes dramatic growth in children.

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Pituitary Gland  
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Causes  

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, cancerous tumors of other organs, such as the pancreas, adrenal, or lung, may be the source of excess GH.

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Risk Factors  

Acromegaly is more common in people who are 40-45 years of age. Family history of acromegaly may rarely increase your risk of this condition.

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Symptoms  

Symptoms usually develop slowly over time.

In children, the bones are longer 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—bulging of brow and lower jaw
    • Jaw—teeth do not line up correctly when the mouth is closed
    • Lips
    • Tongue
  • 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
  • Difficulty sleeping due to a blocked airway
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Fatigue and weakness in the legs and arms
  • Joint pain, especially in the jaw
  • In women:
    • Irregular menstrual cycles
    • Abnormal production of breast milk
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