Acromegaly Can Turn into Diabetes – How?

Insulin - Image: PD Czech Wikipedia Project by Mr Hyde
Injectable Insulin
About the summer of 2009, I was diagnosed with acromegaly. Acromegaly is a relatively rare disorder of the pituitary gland that, especially among prepubescent sufferers, results in abnormal growth—most notably in height. For this reason, the condition is sometimes called Gigantism. I, on the other hand, apparently contracted the beast at a more advanced age, and so it affected me in other ways.

Ah, the Golden Years

One of the unfortunate features is growth of a different sort—growth of the ears, lower jaw, and other facial bones, thickening of the skull, and increase in the size of the hands (most notably the palms) and the feet. In particular, my ankles swelled up due to cartilage growth. My sight was affected in the form of doubled-vision. Headaches, excessive sweating, and a measure of arthritis began to affect me, as well.

All of this was brought about because of a small, non-cancerous tumor called an adenoma. The adenoma affected the level of two or three hormones and related chemicals in my body, including prolactin, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1). I grew heavier, though not taller. Surgery called and I answered.



Surgery Followed by Radiation

Surgery removed much, but not the entire tumor, which eventually grew back. It became necessary to pursue further action. I chose to undergo a kind of focused radiation treatment called gamma knife. Gamma knife radiation is carefully focused upon the tumor so that its cellular DNA is damaged and cannot reproduce. As tumor cells die out, the idea is, they are not replaced with new ones, and the tumor must eventually shrink, perhaps even being reabsorbed by the body.

Interestingly, it worked for me. My growth hormone level is normal and my IGF-1 level is high normal. Strangely, though, all was not right. I kept gaining and kept gaining weight. If my growth hormone level returned to normal, shouldn’t my weight hold steady, or even decrease? Was this not proof my treatment was a failure? No, the weight gain, my physician told me, is proof the treatment worked.

Here’s Why

Growth hormone acts as an antagonist of insulin. Once the excess production was suppressed, I developed borderline diabetes. Diabetes not properly controlled produces weight gain. My goose, once in storage, was now cooked. I’ve often said, I don’t mind too much not being able to win, but it would be nice if I lost a little less quickly. I face a new beast. Do I have the self-control to be the victor and not the victim? You may be able to tell by keeping your eye on me. At present, I tip the scales at 300 lbs.

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