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Signs and symptoms

In most cases the symptoms of acromegaly develop very slowly and signs may not be noticed for some time (several months).

The external signs include:

  • Enlarged hands, making difficult or impossible to remove rings on fingers
  • Enlarged feet which can mean an increase in shoe size
  • Thickening of the lips
  • Enlarged, thickened nose
  • Increased size of the tongue
  • Increase in size of the bony ridges over the eyes
  • Changes in the jaw, making it difficult to bite normally
  • Deepening of the voice

Other changes include:

  • Increases in size of the heart, thyroid, liver and spleen
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This is caused by an increase in the tissues of the wrist that press on the nerves and cause tingling and pins and needles in the fingers.
  • Bone and joint pain

Although patients may go to the doctor because of changes to face, hands or feet, often it is other symptoms, such as menstrual disturbance in women, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome, which lead the patient to see their doctor.

Headaches are caused by the tumour in the pituitary gland increasing in size and pressing on the base of the brain.

There is a threefold increase in the risk of death in patients with acromegaly. Death may result from heart disease, respiratory disorders, diabetes and malignancy. Therefore effective treatment is essential.

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