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The excessive and abnormal growth due to overproduction of growth hormone leads to gigantism. This condition requires early diagnosis to stop or slow down the excessive growth. Gigantism usually occurs in children during their natural growth spurts.

Symptoms of Gigantism

Symptoms of giantism include an increase in height more than normal as compared to peers. The muscles and organs enlarge along with the height. Other signs and symptoms of gigantism include:

  • Late onset of puberty
  • Abnormally large hands and feet
  • Paddle toes, that is, widening of the distal toes and fingers
  • Enlarged forehead and jaw
  • Enlarged tongue, nose and lips
  • Oily skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Arthritis
  • Frequent headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea
  • Deafness
  • Irregular menstrual periods in girls

Causes of Gigantism

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Gigantism is a serious condition that occurs due to release of excessive growth hormone in childhood. A tumor of the pituitary gland leads to excessive secretion of growth hormone. This leads to many physical changes in the body.

Gigantism presents itself in childhood or early adulthood. The condition must occur before the growth plates in the long bones of the body fuse. If it occurs after the fusion, it is called as acromegaly.

A benign tumor on the pituitary gland called the pituitary adenoma leads to gigantism in most cases. Other conditions that can lead to gigantism include:

  • Carney complex
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1
  • MaCune-Albright syndrome (MAS)
  • Neurofibromatosis

Diagnosis of Gigantism

If a doctor suspects gigantism in the child, he/she may ask for a blood test. This blood test measures the levels of growth hormones and an insulin-like growth factor called the IGF-1. An oral glucose tolerance test will be conducted. In this case, after drinking a glucose drink, if the sugar levels remain the same, it indicates the child’s body is producing too much growth hormone. An MRI will help indicate the size and location of the tumor on the pituitary gland.

Treatment for Gigantism

The treatment for gigantism depends on the size and location of the tumor as well as the age and medical condition of the patient. Treatment includes:

  • Surgical removal of the tumor by an experienced neurosurgeon. In most cases, the tumor can be reached through an incision in the nose.
  • If surgery is not an option in case the tumor is hard to reach, medications that helps shrink the tumor or stop the production of growth hormone may be prescribed. These drugs include octreotide and lanreotide. Bromocriptine and cabergoline help shrink a tumor before a surgery.

The prognosis shows 80% of the cases are cured of gigantism by surgery. Medications also help subside the symptoms and help the child live a normal life. It is important to get the condition corrected as early as possible. Otherwise, it leads to a difficult and health issues ridden life.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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