Acromegaly is a rare, chronic, progressive disease characterized by an excess secretion of growth hormone (GH) and increased circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) concentrations. It is caused by a pituitary adenoma in the vast majority of cases. The clinical diagnosis, based on symptoms related to GH excess, is often delayed due to the insidious nature of the disease. Consequently, patients often have established systemic complications at diagnosis with increased morbidity and premature mortality. Serum IGF-1 measurement is recommended as the initial screen for patients with suspected acromegaly. The gold standard diagnostic test remains the oral glucose tolerance test with concomitant GH measurement. Therapy for acromegaly is targeted at decreasing GH and IGF-1 levels, ameliorating patients' symptoms and decreasing any local compressive effects of the pituitary adenoma. The therapeutic options for acromegaly include surgery, medical therapies (such as dopamine agonists, somatostatin receptor agonists and the GH receptor antagonist pegvisomant) and radiotherapy. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended with often a requirement for combined treatment modalities. With disease control, associated morbidity and mortality can be reduced. The recently published evidence-based guidelines by the Endocrine society addressed important clinical issues regarding the evaluation and management of acromegaly. This review discusses advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology of acromegaly, diagnosis of various forms of the disease and focuses on current treatment modalities, and on future pharmacological therapies for patients with acromegaly.
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