Acromegaly is a serious hormonal disorder caused by an overproduction of human growth hormone well into adulthood. In most people, the pituitary gland ceases production of HGH when the body stops growing. However, in acromegaly, HGH is produced in quantities typical of adolescence throughout adulthood. As a result, although acromegalic patients tend to be very tall (a height in excess of 7 feet is not unusual), they also tend to have a high body mass with very enlarged feet, hands and head. People with a related condition, giantism, tend to stop growing at adulthood and have more or less normal proportions.
Famous people with acromegaly include wrestler Andre The Giant and actor Richard Kiel, who portrayed the villain "Jaws" in two James Bond movies.
Ironically, acromegally was often treated with human growth hormone before the condition was well understood. The only effective treatment is the removal of the pituitary gland, but this is a life-threatening surgery and many patients instead live with the side effects.
Because of the stress the increased body mass typical of the disease places on the patient's heart and skeleton, acromegalic patients are succeptible to early onset heart disease and infections from microfractures of the bones, particularly those in the lower leg.