Difference between Acromegaly and Gigantism

Acromegaly and gigantism are two medical conditions that affect the human body in different ways, but they share one common feature: they both involve an excess of growth hormone. In this essay, we will explore the differences between acromegaly and gigantism, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What is Acromegaly?

Acromegaly is a medical condition in which the body produces too much growth hormone after the completion of normal growth. This results in the enlargement of certain body parts, such as the hands, feet, and face. The excess growth hormone can also cause other health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Acromegaly is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged adults and is usually caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain that regulates the body's production of hormones.

  • Diagnosis and causes of Acromegaly − Acromegaly can be diagnosed by measuring and noticing high levels of growth hormones in blood plasma, and by CT or MRI scans. These scans may show a pituitary tumor present causing the oversecretion. The condition is caused by a hypersecretion of growth hormone that begins in adulthood after the epiphyses are closed. It can be the result of a non-cancerous pituitary tumor or non- pituitary gland tumor in a different region of the brain, in the lungs or pancreas.

  • Complications involved in Acromegaly − One of the big complications from having acromegaly is the development of cardiomyopathy, in which the heart enlarges; this then causes problems with the heart function. There can also be increasing problems with the respiratory system and with both lipid and glucose metabolism.

  • Treatment of Acromegaly − Surgery in which the tumor is removed is a possible treatment option, radiation therapy may also help. Sometimes medication such as ocreotide can be used to reduce the amount of growth hormone that is being secreted, other medication such as pegvisomant can be used which actually blocks receptors for the hormone. This latter medication then stops the effects of the hormone.

What is Gigantism?

Gigantism is a medical condition in which the body produces too much growth hormone during the normal growth and development phase, typically during childhood and adolescence. This excess hormone production can cause the individual to grow taller than average, with long limbs and an elongated face. The excess growth hormone can also cause other health problems, such as joint pain, arthritis, and heart disease. Gigantism is a rare condition that usually occurs due to a benign tumor in the pituitary gland.

  • Diagnosis and Causes of Gigantism − The condition may be diagnosed in a child from a blood test where levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) are noted to be elevated. An MRI scan or CT scan can show if there is a pituitary adenoma (tumor) present. It is often caused by this benign non-cancerous tumor of the pituitary gland causing oversecretion of the growth hormone. Certain syndromes can also cause the condition, including McCune-Albright syndrome, and Carney complex. Neurofibromatosis and certain endocrine neoplasias can also cause the disorder.

  • Complications in Gigantism − Treatment of the condition can lead to metabolic problems including with glucose and lipid metabolism. If not treated the heart can enlarge leading to cardiovascular problems later in life.

  • Treatment of Gigantism − Gigantism is often treated by using medicine that helps reduce the overproduction of the growth hormone or blocks the receptors to which the hormone binds. The drug pegvisomant is sometimes used, as well as radiation therapy.

Differences: Acromegaly and Gigantism

One of the main differences between acromegaly and gigantism is the age of onset. Acromegaly typically occurs in middle-aged adults, while gigantism occurs during childhood and adolescence. The age of onset can have a significant impact on the individual's physical and mental health, as well as their ability to receive treatment.

Another key difference between the two conditions is the severity of the symptoms. While both conditions involve an excess of growth hormone, the symptoms of acromegaly tend to be more subtle and less dramatic than those of gigantism. Acromegaly often causes the hands, feet, and face to become slightly enlarged, while gigantism can cause the individual to grow to an extreme height and develop other physical abnormalities.

The treatment for acromegaly and gigantism also differs. In both cases, the primary goal of treatment is to reduce the excess production of growth hormone. In acromegaly, this is typically achieved through the surgical removal of the pituitary tumor. In some cases, medication or radiation therapy may also be used. In gigantism, treatment typically involves the use of medication to reduce the excess growth hormone production. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove the tumor causing the excess hormone production.

The following table highlights the major differences between Acromegaly and Gigantism −





Acromegaly is a disorder in which there is an excess of growth hormone secreted beginning sometime between ages 20 to 40.

Gigantism is a disorder in which there is which there is an excess of growth hormone secreted during childhood.

Life stage

Acromegaly develops during early to middle adulthood.

Gigantism always develops during childhood before the bones’ growth plates have fused.

Facial features

In acromegaly, the tongue often changes size and shape, the jaw also protrudes and the lips thicken.

In gigantism the jaw becomes prominent and the forehead protrudes.


A person with acromegaly does not experience an increase in height because the condition starts in adulthood.

A person with gigantism does have increased height because they are children who are still growing.

Onset of puberty

Acromegaly develops after puberty and during adulthood so the onset is unaffected.

Gigantism develops before puberty and therefore can cause a delay in the onset of puberty.

Gonadal development

The gonads (reproductive organs) are not affected by acromegaly since the person is an adult when the condition starts.

The gonads are affected though in gigantism since the person is a child when the problem begins.


Acromegaly is caused by a noncancerous pituitary tumor or non-pituitary tumor of the lungs or other parts of the brain.

Gigantism is caused by a noncancerous pituitary tumor, McCune-Albright syndrome, Carney complex, neurofibromatosis and also certain endocrine neoplasias.


In conclusion, acromegaly and gigantism are two medical conditions that involve an excess of growth hormone. While they share some similarities, such as the involvement of the pituitary gland, they differ in their age of onset, severity of symptoms, and treatment options.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of acromegaly or gigantism, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Updated on: 25-Apr-2023


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