Diagnosis and Testing

How do I get tested for acromegaly?

If a person begins to develop the physical features of acromegaly (enlarged hands and feet, changes in facial features, etc.) they will likely do two different things to help make the diagnosis.

The first thing is some blood work. Acromegaly is caused by elevated levels of growth hormone (GH). Because levels of growth hormone fluctuate in every person, taking blood at one random time is not enough to make a diagnosis. Therefore, in order to get a more accurate result, a glucose tolerance test is used. This test has a person drink 75-100mg of glucose (essentially sugar water). In people without acromegaly, the GH level should drop to a very low level. In people with acromegaly, this lowering does not occur.

The second step is some imaging of the brain to look at the pituitary gland located deep in the center of the brain. This is because most people who develop acromegaly do so because of a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that is growing on the pituitary gland. MRI scans are preferred to look at the pituitary, but CT scans can also be used. If a tumor is not found on the pituitary, them more imaging of the body needs to be done. This is because about 5% of the time, people with acromegaly develop a tumor in other places of their body that can also cause acromegaly.

"Acromegaly" National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. April 2012.

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