Acromegaly is characterized by increased release of growth hormone and, consequently, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF1), most often by a pituitary adenoma. Prolonged exposure to excess hormone leads to progressive somatic disfigurement and a wide range of systemic manifestations that are associated with increased mortality. Although considered a rare disease, recent studies have reported an increased incidence of acromegaly owing to better disease awareness, improved diagnostic tools and perhaps a real increase in prevalence. Acromegaly treatment approaches, which include surgery, radiotherapy and medical therapy, have changed considerably over time owing to improved surgical procedures, development of new radiotherapy techniques and availability of new medical therapies. The optimal use of these treatments will reduce mortality in patients with acromegaly to levels in the general population. Medical therapy is currently an important treatment option and can even be the first-line treatment in patients with acromegaly who will not benefit from or are not suitable for first-line neurosurgical treatment. Pharmacological treatments include somatostatin receptor ligands (such as octreotide, lanreotide and pasireotide), dopamine agonists and the growth hormone receptor antagonist pegvisomant. In this Primer, we review the main aspects of acromegaly, including scientific advances that underlie expanding knowledge of disease pathogenesis, improvements in disease management and new medical therapies that are available and in development to improve disease control.