Acromegaly: Chronic disease root of young man’s abnormally gray hair and facial changes

A chronic, progressive disease was discovered to be the reason why a man in his 20s experienced a sudden increase of gray hair and facial changes, local doctors said.

The man recently went to Renji Hospital to find out why the changes had taken place.

Doctors suspected he suffered from acromegaly, a chronic disease characterized by enlargement of head bones, soft parts of the feet and hands and sometimes other parts of the body due to excessive secretion of growth hormones by the pituitary gland.

Doctors conducted an MRI and found a pituitary tumor, which caused the man’s acromegaly. To their surprise, doctors also found a cyst in his brain.

Doctors conducted one successful surgery to treat both problems simultaneously.

Dr Ma Jing, director of Renji Hospital’s endocrinology department, said acromegaly is an endocrine metabolism disease that has no symptoms in its early stages, and most people are not diagnosed with it until they are 40 or 50, commonly 4.5 to 9 years after originally contracting the disease — in some extreme cases, 20 years later.

In addition to affecting the hands, feet and face, the disease can afflict the cardiovascular system, causing problems like hypertension and poor heart function. Those with the disease also have a higher risk of diabetes, thyroid and intestinal tumors, Ma said.

“Since people with acromegaly usually have abnormal endocrine function, early screening and diagnosis is important,” she said.


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