A challenge in diagnosing and treating TMJ is that it has a lot of overlap with many other conditions. This can lead people to think they have a different condition than they actually do, which can delay treatment and sometimes leads to the wrong treatment. This has become more serious in the Internet age, where Google searches for symptoms can lead to many erroneous results. A search can sometimes put a rare condition front and center. That’s why it’s important to consider both the common and unusual conditions that overlap with TMJ symptoms.
One very unusual condition that people sometimes confuse with TMJ is acromegaly.
What Is Acromegaly?
Acromegaly is a hormonal condition where your body produces too many growth hormones. This causes the bones to continue to grow, leading a person to grow taller, but also broader, perhaps most noticeably in the jaw. This gives the appearance of a high jaw and can cause jaw growing pains.
This condition is often caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland, where the pressure triggers the increased release of growth hormones. However, tumors may also be the culprit.
As with many other conditions, acromegaly ostensibly shares many symptoms with TMJ. People with both conditions might experience:
- Jaw pain
- Changes in the way teeth fit together
- Sore neck and back
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers
When people experience these symptoms, it may initially look like either condition. For some of the symptoms, it can be hard to distinguish the two conditions. For example, rebound headaches that occur in either condition might seem similar enough that it’s not easy to use them to distinguish the problems. Neck and back pain can also be similar for both conditions. The same might be true with jaw pain. Both TMJ and acromegaly can cause jaw joint pain, which can make them difficult to distinguish. But most often, it’s TMJ that causes jaw muscle pain. Patients regularly confuse TMJ and sinus infections with each other so it’s not uncommon to mix up acromegaly and TMJ.
When your teeth change the way they fit together, many different conditions can cause it. This includes gum disease which can affect TMJ bone growth. However, with acromegaly, the teeth are most likely to simply space apart while remaining generally straight. That’s because the high jaw is growing around the teeth, which have to move with the jawbone where they’re anchored.
Tingling and numbness in the fingers is often due to carpal tunnel, a complication of acromegaly. But different fingers become affected. In carpal tunnel, tingling and numbness occur in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. TMJ numbness tends to manifest in the pinky and ring finger.
You can also distinguish acromegaly from TMJ with several symptoms unique to it. These include:
- Vision changes
- Changes in the shape of the forehead
- Voice changes
- Nerve paralysis
- Enlarged brow ridges
- Broadening chin
- Puffy appearance
If you have these symptoms, it is more likely that you have acromegaly.
Managing Both Conditions
Sometimes, people can develop TMJ that’s secondary to acromegaly. In this case, it’s important to manage your acromegaly first. You can accomplish this through the removal of the pressuring tumor, drug therapy, or radiation therapy. Once you control the acromegaly, but symptoms persist, we can begin to manage the TMJ, and consider whether cosmetic dentistry might help improve the remaining symptoms.
If you are looking for a TMJ dentist in the Wichita Falls, TX area, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.