Acromegaly typically develops when a benign tumor of the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone (GH), ultimately leading to significant health problems and early death if untreated. There are an estimated 69,000 individuals with acromegaly worldwide. In 13 studies of acromegaly prevalence since 1980, an average of approximately 75 cases per million was determined, suggesting roughly 24,000 individuals with acromegaly in the United States, of which an estimated 8,000 are treated chronically with somatostatin analog injections. However, data presented at the Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting in 2015 suggest that pituitary tumors may be more prevalent than previously thought, and that the global prevalence of acromegaly may be higher, between 85 and 118 cases per million people. NIH also cites an annual incidence of three to four new cases per million each year. Because symptoms often develop slowly, diagnosis may be delayed by years or decades, making it difficult to determine the total number of people with the disease.
Common features of acromegaly are facial changes, intense headaches, joint pain, impaired vision and enlargement of the hands, feet, tongue and internal organs. Serious health conditions associated with the progression of acromegaly include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disorders and cardiac and cerebrovascular disease.
Current treatment options include surgery to remove the pituitary tumor, radiation therapy which destroys any lingering tumor cells, and/or medical treatment in cases where these approaches are not possible or fully effective. Today's medical treatments include dopamine agonists, GH antagonists, and injectable somatostatin analogs, which are the current standard of care.