Roberto Salvatori, MD, Medical Director, Johns Hopkins Pituitary Center and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins discusses some of the challenges of diagnosing acromegaly, a rare disorder that occurs when your body makes too much growth hormone. Produced mainly in the pituitary gland, growth hormone controls the physical growth of the body. In adults, too much of this hormone causes bones, cartilage, body organs, and other tissues to increase in size. Common changes in appearance include enlarged or swollen nose, ears, hands, and feet.

Acromegaly is most often diagnosed in middle-aged adults, but symptoms can appear at any age. In children, too much growth hormone causes a condition called gigantism. Gigantism occurs when excess growth hormone begins before the end of puberty, when children’s growth plates fuse or close. Having too much growth hormone before the growth plates close causes children to grow tall in height.

Acromegaly is a rare disorder caused by a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland, which is located just below the brain. The pituitary gland controls many body functions, including growth, metabolism and reproductive function.

In acromegaly, a tumor that grows on the pituitary gland produces too much GH, which can prompt the liver to overproduce IGF-1. Too much GH or IGF-1 in the bloodstream signals the body to grow, and can result in a wide range of signs and symptoms.

The growth hormone disorder acromegaly is usually caused by a pituitary tumor. These tumors are always benign (that is, non-cancerous). About 95% of cases of acromegaly are caused by a benign pituitary tumor. The other 5% of cases are caused by non-pituitary tumors; those tumors, usually located in other parts of the brain, the pancreas, or the lungs, can cause the body to secrete too much growth hormone.

To learn more about acromegaly and other endocrine disorders, visit