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What causes giantism?

A plant or animal of far greater than normal size for its species, or kind, is known as a Giant.

In horticulture, plants are often bred to increase their size. Such plants are healthy and normal in all other respects. In animals, however, gigantism is usually caused by a glandular disorder, and it is associated with other abnormalities.

In human beings, gigantism usually results from improper functioning of the pituitary, a tiny gland located at the base of the brain. One of the hormones secreted by the pituitary gland controls the rate of growth. If too much of the growth hormone is produced during infancy or early childhood, the long bones of the arms and legs continue to grow beyond their normal length. As a result -the child may eventually reach a height of 8 or 9 feet.

Most pituitary giants have normal body proportions. However, their sexual development is often retarded, and they have an abnormally high rate of metabolism. Many giants also suffer from diabetes mellitus and other diseases. As a result of these disorders the life-span of a giant is generally much shorter than that of a normal person.

Sometimes the pituitary gland secretes too much growth hormone after a person's growth has been completed. In such cases the excess hormone results in a condition called acromegaly. In acromegaly the bones of the hands, feet, and face gradually enlarge. The jaw often juts forward, and the nose may increase to as much as twice its normal size. Frequently the hands and feet become thick and fleshy, and the lips may also enlarge. Acromegaly usually starts between the ages of 20 and 40 and is generally caused by pituitary gland tumors. Often the disorder may be relieved by surgical removal or radiation of the tumor.

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