Acromegaly Vs Gigantism

Understanding Growth Disorders

Growth hormone, also known as somatotropin, is essential to human development. Without it, basic and essential processes in the human body simply do not happen. However, excessive amounts of somatotropin can be extremely harmful to the human body as well. If growth hormone exceeds a certain threshold, it may lead to disorders such as acromegaly and gigantism. These disorders are known to cause great issues for those suffering from them and can affect everything from physical appearance to internal organs.

What Is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a disorder characterized by skeletal deformities and other visible symptoms. People suffering from acromegaly often display a distinct physical appearance with prominent brow ridges and extreme protrusion of the lower jaws. Beyond these visual distinctions, acromegaly patients often speak with a deep and thick voice due to their enlarged vocal cords.

Soft tissues are also affected by acromegaly and this can be seen in the swelling of the hands, feet, and nose. The skin of acromegaly patients will often darken due to the way the disease affects melanin production with armpits being especially afflicted. It may also affect internal organs and result in patients suffering from heart and kidney dysfunction as a result of weakening muscularity.

What Is Gigantism?

Gigantism is a growth disorder associated with extremely pronounced development in height and often in other areas as well. Persons afflicted with this disorder regularly reach heights in excess of 7 feet with heights reaching up to 9 feet. Although the primary distinction of gigantism is height, it may also cause a number of conditions in other areas of the body as well.

The excessive size increase caused by gigantism can cause a number of serious issues for sufferers in general. The human body is not designed in such a way that it can easily handle the dimensions of a giant and this may result in issues revolving around cardiovascular health and breathing.

The Overlapping Features Of The Diseases

Gigantism and acromegaly are certainly very similar diseases. It isn't difficult to see how someone could confuse the two diseases for one another. Another area of similar between the disorders is the presence of excessive sweating. Both diseases are the result of excessive growth hormone levels and both produce excessive size.

Beyond obvious visual and functional similarities, hormonal assessments reveal the diseases cause striking similarities. Patients suffering from these disorders tend to have low levels of prolactin, a hormone known to reduce growth and signal the end of puberty. Additionally, they are both associated with adverse outcomes in heart health and often they are treated in a similar fashion through the use of glucose.

What Separates These Disorders

The distinction between the diseases is generally in the onset. Acromegaly is a disease found in adults with most cases being diagnosed in middle age. Gigantism is a disorder typically observed first in children and does not necessarily continue into adulthood. Someone afflicted with gigantism will tend to grow tall, but someone suffering from acromegaly is likely to have a normal height. Another area of difference between the disorders is the presence of facial deformity in acromegaly patients. Sufferers of gigantism typically do not have prominent brow ridges or swelling in their extremities.

It is important to note that acromegaly is much more common than gigantism. There are only 100 known cases of gigantism in medical records, while cases of acromegaly are routinely seen. The lack of gigantism cases has made understanding issues such as mortality exceedingly difficult for the disorder. However, the issues surrounding acromegaly are quite well understood. The mortality rate for those suffering from acromegaly is 2 to 3 times that of the general population. Contending with these problems is a major source of concern regarding the treatment of acromegaly.

How Two Diseases Are Treated

Acromegaly treatment and gigantism treatment generally follows a similar pattern. Glucose is known to reduce the effects of growth hormone and doctors will often use glucose treatments to alleviate many of the symptoms. Benign tumors are often present in the pituitary gland of patients, so there is often a need to remove them from the brain in order to treat the patient.

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Last Reviewed:
June 04, 2017
Last Updated:
June 04, 2017