Our body’s pituitary gland secretes growth hormone (GH) which is responsible for overall body development during childhood. When too much growth hormone is secreted that augments the growth of muscle, bones and connective tissue in childhood or adolescence before the end of puberty, the condition is called Gigantism (Endocrine disorder). The result is an increase in height and formation of additional soft tissues. Some individuals may achieve a height in excess of eight feet.
Causes of Gigantism
In most of the cases, non-cancerous pituitary gland tumor is behind gigantism. Located at the base of the brain, pituitary gland makes hormones that control body temperature, metabolism growth, sexual development and urine production. Other causes of gigantism are:
Your child is suffering from gigantism if he/she is much taller than other children of the same age. Moreover, some parts of the body may be visibly bigger than other parts. Common signs of gigantism include large hands and feet, thick toes and fingers, a bulging jaw and forehead, and improper facial features. Children suffering from gigantism may also suffer from large heads, lips, or tongues. The symptoms of gigantism depend on the size of the pituitary gland tumor. Some children may experience vision problems, headaches and nausea from tumor. Other symptoms include:
Gigantism requires early detection and strong treatment to prevent excess production of growth hormone and to improve life expectancy. Normally, surgery is the first line of treatment with the objective of removing the tumor to minimize growth hormone levels and reduce the pressure on the nerves. The type of operation depends on the size of the tumor and how easily it can be accessed.
Radiation therapy is another option if surgery has not provided a complete cure. It can take several years for radiation therapy to be effective. Half of the patients achieve controlled growth hormone in 5-10 years. Though radiation therapy is successful in controlling tumor growth, it may not reduce growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 levels.
Drug therapy may also be used in certain circumstances:
- Prior to surgery in order to control symptoms and cause the tumor to shrink
- Post surgery when growth hormone levels are not managed
- While radiation therapy is going on
- Individuals not qualified for surgical process
Regular medical follow-up is required to scrutinize growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 to notice any growth of the tumor.