Health Beat

Health Beat: Pituitary disorders: Acromegaly

VIDEO: Health Beat - Pituitary problems

PORTLAND, Ore. - Jim Pritchard knows if he doesn't pay attention, his garden will grow out of control. The same could have happened with Pritchard's health.

"If I had let it go too much longer, it could have pressed on the optic nerve and could have affected my eyesight," Pritchard said.

Pritchard went in for a routine doctor's visit, where an enlarged thyroid was detected.

"There are patients that are missed for years and years because they didn't present with very clear symptoms and nobody thought about the possibility of a pituitary tumor," said Dr. Maria Fleseriu, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Specialists did spot the tumor squeezing Pritchard's pituitary gland and sent him to surgery.

"That was quite an experience, the operation itself, because they go up through the nose, grab hold of that tumor and collapse it," explained Pritchard.

Pituitary gland tumors are usually benign, but they can cause a host of problems that often show up as blurred or double vision, dizzy spells. They can develop into Cushing's disease, or in the case of Pritchard, abnormal growth called acromegaly.

"Older data shows that the mortality can be increased up to four times for Cushing's that's not treated, and for acromegaly, it's usually doubled," Fleseriu said.

With medication, Pritchard hasn't had any significant health issues for the past eight years.

With acromegaly, people often don't notice symptoms until it is brought to their attention by comparing current and old photographs. Some famous people who had the pituitary disorder include the wrestler André René Roussimoff (André the Giant), Ted Cassidy (Lurch) from "The Addams Family," and Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) from the "Munsters."

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