The authors review the historical and epidemiological aspects, clinical features and complications of acromegaly while emphasizing the importance of the early diagnosis and treatment. Acromegaly is a rare and mostly sporadic disorder due to excessive production of growth hormone. It is characterized by progressive somatic disfigurement (mainly involving the face and extremities) and systemic manifestations. The prevalence is estimated between 40 and 125 cases/million. Generally, it is diagnosed in middle-aged adults (mean age 40 years, men and women equally affected). Due to its insidious onset and slow progression, acromegaly is often diagnosed 7 to more than 10 years after its onset. The disease has cardiovascular, rheumatological, respiratory and metabolic consequences which highly determine its prognosis. Acromegaly is associated with a number of complications resulting in a two- or four-fold increase of mortality and a decrease of life expectancy by about 10 years. The major causes of death include cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events, respiratory diseases and malignancies. The duration of the disease before the introduction of effective therapy may be a major predictor of increased mortality mainly due to complications . The early diagnosis is important for timely commencement of treatment and for prevention of serious complications of the disease.
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