Too Tall to Live? Giant Health Risks for Tallest Woman

"If you treat it, they should have a normal life expectancy," she said. Children suffering from gigantism are unlikely to pick up these complications, while adults who are treated in time shouldn't develop the problems acromegaly can cause.

"The idea is to pick it up early, reverse it quickly before anything develops that you can't reverse," she said.

Early detection is a simpler matter than it used to be -- at least in developed countries. Because of regular monitoring of height, doctors often quickly notice when a child is likely to have a pituitary tumor.

But in older patients, the illness has been more difficult to diagnose because the signs are less apparent.

"A lot of people attribute it to aging. They just think they're getting older and uglier," explained Bonert.

She said that many people attribute the inability to wear their wedding rings to weight gain, and said that adult symptoms are often not diagnosed until a person runs into someone who knew them well but whom they have not seen in a while. But she said recent studies have lowered the average time it takes to detect acromegaly.

Death of Giant Woman

To treat gigantism or acromegaly, the physician will usually try to remove the tumor, which solves the problem. If the tumor cannot be removed, as sometimes is the case, then the patient will need to take medications to control the tumor.

"If you can cure the disease it's better than being on lifelong medication that has to be injected," said Bergman.

But while height record-setters may garner more attention because of their childhood disease, Bonert said pituitary tumors are much more common in adults than in children, "Otherwise we'd have more giants walking around."

A Short -- but Full -- Life

For Allen, increased height meant residence at a nursing home in her final years. The added weight brought about by her stature eventually made it impossible for her to walk, and she fought through a host of health conditions in the months before her death.

But while she may not have had an easy life, she noted in her 2007 interview that her unique condition opened doors to incredible opportunities. And though her life was cut short, some may say she managed to live it to the fullest she could.

"I like my life the way it is," Allen said. "Getting in the Guinness Book of Records really changed my life. It has given me the opportunity to travel all over the world, see places I would only have dreamed of. … and it sort of brought me out of my shell."

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