Bizarre pattern on man’s head caused by too much growth hormone

Doctors release pictures of bizarre pattern on top of 37-year-old man’s head caused by a disorder that sees him produce too much growth hormone

  • The unnamed man also had large hands, feet and jaw and excessive sweating
  • After tests, doctors diagnosed him with the rare condition acromegaly
  • It was caused by a benign tumour in the brain which one in five people get 

Doctors have released photos of unusual patterns on top of a man’s head caused by a disorder that sees him produce too much growth hormone.

The unnamed 37-year-old, from Italy, went to see his doctor after finding extra folds of skin that looked like a quilt. 

He also had enlarged feet, hands, and a protruding lower jaw – all are symptoms of a rare disorder called acromegaly.

Made famous by Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in James Bond classic The Spy Who Loved Me, the disorder causes the bones to increase in size, most commonly during middle age. 

The unnamed man, believed to be from Italy, was diagnosed with a disorder called acromegaly, commonly caused by a tumour on the pituitary gland

Doctors have released photos of bizarre patterns on a man’s head caused by a disorder that sees him produce too much growth hormone. Pictured, the back of his head

Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors said the thickening and furrowing of skin on the scalp is called cutis verticis gyrata.

They added that it can ‘occur as an isolated finding or may be related to a number of conditions, such as acromegaly, as in this case’.

Doctors in Padua treated the man after confirming the diagnosis, but said the deep ridges on his head could not be reversed.  

It was the man’s wife who had first noticed the pattern on her husband’s head, but other symptoms had appeared gradually.

For four years previously, the man had suffered with excessive sweating, headaches, and joint pain.    

Physical examination by doctors led by Dr Matteo Parolin at the University of Padua showed thickening of the skin on his scalp with ridges and furrows. 


Acromegaly is a rare condition in which the pituitary gland in the brain creates too much growth hormone.

It is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumour in the brain which affects the gland.

Acromegaly is usually diagnosed in people between 30 and 50 years old, but can happen at any age.

It is a rare condition with only around four to six new cases per million people being diagnosed each year – roughly 325 people a year in the UK, or 1,625 in the US.

Symptoms include swollen hands or feet, tiredness and difficulty sleeping, changes in facial features, numbness in the hands, abnormal periods in women, erection problems in men, and headaches or blurred vision.

Some symptoms may be caused by the tumour pressing on other parts of the brain.

Having the condition increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumour and relieve pressure on the pituitary gland.

Sources: NHS Choices; The Pituitary Foundation 

It is not clear if his enlarged hands, feet, and jaw were noticed by the doctors or the patient first. 

Tests were undertaken and, in the laboratory, increased levels of growth factors hormones were discovered.

At first, a dose of glucose was used to try and suppress the hormones, but to no avail.

It suggested to medics the true cause was acromegaly, therefore they investigated the man’s brain using an MRI scan.

It revealed a tumour on his pituitary gland, which is attached to the base of the brain and is about the size of a kidney bean.

The tumour, called a pituitary adenoma, are in fact very common, with one in five people estimated to have one at some point in their life.

In many cases the benign growth is harmless and is only diagnosed by chance.

But it can lead to the secretion of excessive or reduced amounts of growth hormone, causing various symptoms including the man’s, as well as an enlarged tongue or facial features, a deeper voice, erectile dysfunction and irregular menstrual cycles. 

The tumour itself can cause headaches and impaired vision due to pressing on nearby brain tissues. 

The patient had the tumour removed and was treated with medications that suppress the extra hormone growth.

He also received injections of soft-tissue fillers in an attempt to create a smoother appearance of the scalp. But the injections had only partial effect.

Scientists estimate that three to four out of every million people develop acromegaly each year and about 60 out of every million people suffer from the disease at any time, according to the National Institute of Health.

The rare condition, made famous by Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me, was triggered by a 7cm tumour on the pituitary gland

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