What is gigantism?

Gigantism is a very rare condition that occurs during childhood, in which there is extreme bone, muscle and organ growth. Gigantism is caused by an overproduction of growth hormone (GH) that occurs before a child’s bone growth plates have closed. This results in excessive growth and abnormally tall height.

People with gigantism generally have very large hands, fingers, toes and heads. They also have changes in related characteristics, including coarse skin, excessive sweat production, and a very deep voice. They may have enlarged internal organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain and tongue. This can cause complications, including high blood pressure, severe headaches, sleep apnea, diabetes, diminished vision, and heart failure.

The overproduction of GH that causes gigantism is most often the result of benign pituitary tumors. These press on the pituitary gland, causing it to produce too much GH. In most cases, pituitary gigantism occurs in isolation. In rarer instances, certain inherited or genetic syndromes, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia and McCune-Albright syndrome, can lead to excessive GH production resulting in gigantism.

Acromegaly is a slightly more common disorder that is often grouped with gigantism because it is also caused by overproduction of GH. The main difference between the two disorders is that overproduction of GH in acromegaly occurs in adulthood after the bone growth plates have closed, so it does not result in the same extreme growth as with gigantism. However, many of the other symptoms are the same, including skin and organ changes.

Gigantism is a treatable condition. However, left untreated, gigantism can lead to a variety of complications, such as heart disease, unusual height, delayed puberty, and double vision. Seek regular medical care for your child to reduce the risk that gigantism will develop and progress undetected. Seek prompt medical care if you notice unexplained changes in your child’s appearance, such as excessive growth in height or unusual enlargement of the face, hands or feet.


What are the symptoms of gigantism?

Gigantism is characterized by extreme growth. Children with gigantism are very tall for their age and may also have the following conditions:


What causes gigantism?

Gigantism is caused by an overproduction of growth hormone (GH) that occurs in childhood before the bone growth plates have closed. Diseases, disorders and conditions that can cause GH overproduction leading to gigantism include:

  • Benign tumors of the pituitary gland, which press on the pituitary gland and cause excessive GH production. This is the most common cause of... Read more about gigantismcauses


How is gigantism treated?

Treatment of gigantism may involve a combination of techniques to reduce or regulate the pituitary gland’s release of growth hormone (GH). The exact treatment plan will vary based on the underlying cause of the overproduction of GH. Your healthcare provider is best able to guide your treatment decisions based on your specific circumstances.

Medical treatments of gigantism

... Read more about gigantismtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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