Truly Plaice, the protagonist of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, is referred to as a "giant" even as a child. It is not until mid-way through the book that a physician provides the name of the disease that afflicts her: Acromegaly.
Acromegaly comes from the Latin acron, for extremity, and megas, meaning large. It was originally known as "Pierre Marie Disease" after the French neurologist who first correlated the clinical and pathological findings in 1886. The disease is rare, affecting about one in every 20,000 Americans.
The underlying cause is an over-secretion of growth hormone by the pituitary gland. In 90% of acromegaly cases, this is due to a benign tumor on the pituitary gland called a pituitary adenoma.
Symptoms progress very slowly (photographs of an untreated patient over time), making the disease difficult to diagnose. Some of its effects include:
- Soft tissue swelling resulting in the enlargement of the hands, feet, nose...