A Case Study on Hyperpigmentation in Acromegaly: Exploring the Melanocyte Mystery

February 15, 2024by Dr. S. F. Czar0

Patient Profile:

Patient Name: Mrs. L.M. Age: 45 years Gender: Female Presenting Symptoms: Enlarged hands, feet, facial changes, and noticeable skin darkening.


Mrs. L.M., a 45-year-old woman, presented to the endocrinology clinic with a myriad of symptoms, including facial changes, enlarged hands and feet, and an unusual darkening of her skin. The initial physical examination raised suspicions of acromegaly, prompting further investigation.

Clinical Assessment:

Upon examination, Mrs. L.M. exhibited classic signs of acromegaly, including coarse facial features, enlarged hands with thickened fingers, and pronounced facial lines. Additionally, the patient displayed a noticeable hyperpigmentation primarily on the face, neck, and hands. The skin changes were more pronounced in sun-exposed areas.

Diagnostic Workup:

Given the clinical presentation, a comprehensive diagnostic workup was initiated to confirm the suspected acromegaly and explore the underlying mechanisms of hyperpigmentation.

  1. Hormonal Assessment:
    • Elevated levels of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) were detected in the patient’s blood, confirming the diagnosis of acromegaly.
    • Hormonal assays also revealed increased levels of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), pointing towards potential involvement in the observed hyperpigmentation.
  2. Imaging Studies:
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary gland confirmed the presence of a pituitary adenoma, providing a structural basis for the hormonal dysregulation.
  3. Skin Biopsy:
    • A biopsy of the hyperpigmented skin was performed to assess melanocyte activity and confirm the presence of increased melanin production.

Melanocyte Mystery Unveiled:

The analysis of the skin biopsy provided crucial insights into the connection between acromegaly and hyperpigmentation. Histological examination revealed an increased number of active melanocytes in the epidermis, consistent with the observed darkening of the skin. Immunohistochemical staining further highlighted the expression of growth hormone receptors on melanocytes, suggesting a direct influence of GH on these pigment-producing cells.

Pathophysiological Mechanisms:

The excessive GH and IGF-1 levels in acromegaly appear to stimulate melanocytes directly, leading to an upregulation of melanin production. Additionally, the presence of chronic inflammation in acromegaly may contribute to the activation of melanocytes, exacerbating the hyperpigmentation.

Treatment Approach:

The primary focus of Mrs. L.M.’s treatment was the management of acromegaly to alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications. The patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma, followed by postoperative monitoring of hormonal levels.

In addressing the hyperpigmentation, a multidisciplinary approach was adopted:

  1. Topical Agents: Mrs. L.M. was prescribed topical agents containing depigmenting agents to target the hyperpigmented areas.
  2. Dermatological Interventions: Laser therapy and chemical peels were considered to address cosmetic concerns related to hyperpigmentation.


Following the surgical intervention, Mrs. L.M. experienced a significant reduction in GH and IGF-1 levels. Clinically, there was an improvement in facial features, hand and foot size, and a gradual fading of hyperpigmented areas. Dermatological interventions contributed to further improvement in skin tone and texture.


This case study highlights the intricate relationship between acromegaly and hyperpigmentation, unraveling the melanocyte mystery. The direct influence of growth hormone on melanocytes, as evidenced by the expression of GH receptors, provides a compelling explanation for the observed skin changes. The multidisciplinary approach to treatment, addressing both the underlying endocrine disorder and cosmetic concerns, showcases the importance of a holistic approach in managing complex cases like acromegaly with associated hyperpigmentation. Continued research in this field may uncover additional therapeutic strategies and enhance our understanding of the interplay between hormonal dysregulation and skin pigmentation.



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