Gigantism (Hypersomy)

By | June 8, 2022

In the past, people suffering from gigantism or hypersomia were often excluded and presented as attractions. Only in the last century has this attitude slowly changed and gigantism has been recognized as a disease.

What is giant growth?

Giant growth is an extraordinary body size that is enormously above average. Basically, those people who are among the three percent tallest in their age and sex class are considered gigantic. For circulatory arrest (cardiovascular failure) guide, please visit

More specific divisions relate to the cause of the tremendous growth. For example, hormonal gigantism is referred to as pituitary gigantism, while genetically induced gigantism is called primordial tall stature. Other names for giant growth are hypersomy and gigantism.

A special form of gigantism is acromegaly, in which only the extremities and the extremities of the body such as feet, ears, eyes or chin are enlarged. Giant growth is a very rare phenomenon in Germany. Every year, around three to four out of a million people become ill.


The most common cause of gigantism is an imbalance in hormone levels. This imbalance can have different triggers. During the growth phase, the pituitary gland (pituitary gland), which is responsible for the production and release of growth hormones, can be disturbed.

In this case, it releases too much growth hormone, which leads to uncontrolled growth of the body. In most cases, the reason for this disorder is a benign tumor in the pituitary gland. Tumors in the pancreas can also have an effect on growth, since growth hormones are also produced there.

However, tumors are not always responsible for hypersomia. A congenital overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or diabetes in the mother during pregnancy can also lead to gigantism in infants because the hormone balance is also subject to disturbances. The extremely rare triggers for gigantism also include genetic defects such as Klinefelter syndrome, in which men have an extra X chromosome.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The characteristic feature of gigantism is a height well above average. The average value depends on race, age and gender. A form of hypersomy is when height is in the first percentile. As a rule, with gigantism, all parts of the body grow equally in proportion to the body size.

However, there are some forms of the disease in which only the extremities and tips of the body become longer than average. In many cases, gigantism is already noticeable in infants and children. They often suffer from growing pains. Babies and young children often cry for this reason.

This pain persists into early adulthood and becomes unbearable for some patients. Depending on the type and severity of giant growth, those affected often develop postural defects. These cause additional pain and physical limitations. There are often visible misalignments. Another common symptom is joint pain.

If the giant growth is hormonal, a number of other symptoms can occur. In many cases, this leads to damage to the internal organs. The liver and kidneys are particularly affected. In addition, affected children and adolescents are sexually mature conspicuously early. The secondary sexual characteristics are often very pronounced in them before the age of ten.

Diagnosis & History

The most obvious symptom of giant stature is enormously above average height, which often begins in early childhood. In addition, there is often severe pain during growth and severe growth spurts. The diagnosis of giant growth is based on evaluations of blood values ​​in the laboratory. If these show a severe imbalance in hormone levels, further tests such as magnetic resonance imaging or X-rays are ordered. In this way, a pathological gigantism can be distinguished from a natural, purely genetically determined, above-average growth.

The course of the disease in giant growth is very different and always depends on the severity and treatment options. The rapid and uncontrolled growth puts the greatest strain on the skeleton and with it the bones. Bone growth is often not uniform and can lead to serious misalignments and poor posture, which are often associated with severe headaches and joint pain.

In addition, the disturbed hormone balance also affects the internal organs such as the kidneys or the liver. In many cases, children affected by gigantism are sexually mature prematurely. Secondary sexual characteristics then begin to develop before the age of ten. Despite better treatment options, the average life expectancy of people with gigantism is still well below that of normal-sized people.


One of the biggest complications of gigantism is postural problems. The rapid and uncontrolled growth puts a considerable strain on the bones and subsequently leads to misalignments, which are often associated with severe headaches and joint pain. The characteristic bulges and enlargement of the nose are also typical. As a result of the macroglossia, i.e. the enlargement of the tongue, there is an indistinct pronunciation.

These abnormalities often result in psychological problems. Giant growth is usually associated with inferiority complexes and depression. The disturbed hormone balance overloads the internal organs such as the kidneys and liver. Children with gigantism also reach sexual maturity prematurely and also have a reduced life expectancy. If the hypersomy is based on a pituitary tumor, other symptoms such as visual disturbances, visual field defects and neurological disorders can also occur.

The tumor disease is rarely fatal. Depending on the treatment method chosen, the treatment of gigantism can lead to a variety of complications. Chemotherapy can have long-term effects such as organ damage and hormone imbalances. Hormone therapy can also cause hormone imbalances and lead to premature menopause in women. A surgical procedure is always associated with risks (e.g. injuries and bleeding).

When should you go to the doctor?

Hypersomy should always be checked out by a doctor. This disease does not heal itself. As a rule, hypersomia cannot be treated properly either, so that the person concerned only has to rely on purely symptomatic treatment. A complete cure cannot be achieved. In most cases, hypersomy does not have a negative impact on the life expectancy of the person affected. A doctor should be consulted if the patient suffers from gigantism. Those affected are very large, and the limbs are usually very long.

Also, very severe pain during growth often indicates hypersomia and should always be examined. An examination by a doctor is also very useful if you have pain in your joints. As a rule, hypersomia can be diagnosed by a pediatrician or a general practitioner. The treatment itself is always based on the exact symptoms and their severity, so that no universal prognosis can be given.

Treatment & Therapy

Treating gigantism requires successful treatment of the underlying condition. The most common trigger, pituitary tumor, can be treated through a variety of methods. Since operations near the brain involve great risks, the first attempt is often made to treat the tumor with radiation or chemotherapy.

If, on the other hand, the tumor is malignant in one of the very rare cases, neurosurgical intervention is unavoidable. A tumor in the pancreas is treated in a similar way. In addition to treating the tumor, hormone therapy is often prescribed to inhibit growth. Estrogens and progestins are then used in female patients and testosterone in male patients. If the risk of gigantism is increased by gestational diabetes in the mother, she must be treated optimally throughout the pregnancy to prevent excessive growth of the embryo.

Basically, the earlier the treatment of the trigger begins, the greater the chances of an uncomplicated course of the disease. If treatment is only carried out at an advanced stage or after the end of the growth phase, permanent postural damage can often no longer be averted. In this case, an orthopaedist can only try to treat the existing condition.


Since both the attitude towards people with gigantism and the treatment options have improved significantly in recent decades, those affected can be treated much more efficiently and successfully today. Nevertheless, early detection remains the most important thing, which is why a doctor should be consulted even at the slightest sign of giant growth.


Those affected by gigantic growth (hypersomy) are noticeable throughout their lives due to their above-average size. The disease is congenital and is triggered, among other things, by an excessive release of growth hormones. Height can only be counteracted to a limited extent by surgery or the administration of appropriate hormones; those affected stand out from the crowd permanently. For this reason, aftercare is mainly in the form of psychotherapy.

A specialist doctor will first determine the cause of the giant growth. Various hereditary diseases or hormonal disorders are possible. The causative disease cannot be corrected later if it is congenital. In the event of hormonal overproduction, appropriate therapy can counteract a further growth spurt.

For this, the patient must still be in the growth phase. If giant growth is accompanied by pain in the joints, controlled administration of painkillers is recommended. Psychotherapy can help people with giant growth disease get a better grip on existing emotional problems.

The aim is to prevent depression caused by low self-esteem. The person affected learns to cope with their special situation in everyday life. His self-confidence should be strengthened and stabilized. The therapist has to convey to the patient that, despite his size, he is by no means ‘wrong’ compared to people of average height, just different.

You can do that yourself

The possibilities of self-help are small with gigantic growth. There are no alternative healing methods or self-administered measures that lead to a reduction in physical growth. Since the growth process takes place in the first years of life, those affected can hardly take any initiatives on their own that lead to research into the causes or to change. They depend on the support and help of legal guardians or relatives.

The prospect of changes is only possible in close cooperation with a doctor and the patient. It is therefore necessary to consult a doctor in the first few years of life. Physical growth that has been achieved can no longer be corrected. Therefore, those affected by gigantism should develop various strategies that, despite the visual abnormalities, contribute to a fulfilling life and a strengthening of the quality of life.

Mental strength, stable self-confidence and healthy handling of physical peculiarities are important in order to avoid malaise or mental disorders in the course of life. If joint problems occur, periods of rest and breaks should be taken in good time. In addition, it is advisable to work with a physiotherapist. Exercises that are specially tailored to the needs of the patient can be carried out independently and daily. They serve to alleviate the symptoms and improve general well-being.

Gigantism (Hypersomy)