A singular case in the world is that of Adam Rainer, the only man who, throughout his life, was both a dwarf and a giant.

Rainer was born in 1899 in Graz, Austria to parents of average height. With the outbreak of the First World War, Adam Rainer wanted to enlist in the army, but his application was rejected on the grounds that he was too short – he was 1.37 m – and too frail.

A year later, he tried his luck again, thinking that the 5 cm added to his height would make a difference and he would be accepted but, again, his application was rejected for the same reason – insufficient height.

At 33, he was already 2.18 m

At 19, he was 1.43 m tall, which placed him in the “dwarf” category, but strangely, according to the information kept in his medical records, although he was short, Rainer’s palms and soles were strangely large in relation to with the proportions of his body. Thus, at the time of his attempt to enlist in the army, he was wearing size 43, an excessively large number considering his small stature. Within three years, Rainer’s foot had grown even larger, reaching size 50, although the height had remained roughly the same.

When the Austrian turned 21, all these coordinates regarding his dimensions changed. Completely. Rainer, like in fairy tales, grew up in one day, as others in 7 years.

But what was the reason for the growth in height so suddenly and so large?

He was growing at an alarming rate, going from a height of almost 1.42 m to almost 2.18 m in ten years, during which time he underwent changes including his spine which had begun to develop a severe unnatural curvature.

Between 1930 and 1931, Rainer underwent a medical examination by Drs A. Mandl and F. Windholz who discovered that young Adam Rainer suffered from a condition known as acromegaly.

Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder of the body triggered when the pituitary gland in the brain produces a large amount of STH (somatotropic hormone/growth hormone) during adulthood.

What is acromegaly?

It is a rare condition and develops quite slowly and gradually, with symptoms appearing 10-20 years after onset. In many cases, these changes in the physical appearance of the person affected by acromegaly are overlooked because of the gradual rhythm in which the physical changes occur, they are hardly noticeable even by the family doctor. Most of the time, the diagnosis is established quite late, and sometimes it is completely missed. The average time from the onset of symptoms to the diagnosis of the condition is 12 years.

As a result of the growth in large amounts of STH, the bones grow in a more accelerated way than normal, so that in children it produces gigantism, and in adults there are effects on the bones of the hand, legs and face, the disease is called acromegaly. It affects about 6 in 100,000 people.

What happens if acromegaly is not treated?

Adults with acromegaly develop coarse body hair, thickening and darkening of the skin. They also increase the size and function of the sebaceous and sweat glands, which triggers excessive sweating accompanied by unpleasant body odor. The proliferation of the articular cartilage of the larynx causes changes in the voice, which has a deep and rough tone. Other effects caused by acromegaly are the increase in blood pressure, the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, the onset of erectile dysfunction, infertility, lack of menstruation, increase in glycemic values, calcium and fat, increase in volume of the liver and spleen, states of irritability, breathing difficulties , palpitations, chest pain, tingling in the limbs. If it is not treated, acromegaly can cause the early onset of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders, diabetes, the appearance of colon polyps (precursor symptom of colon cancer).

Over time, among the celebrities who have been affected by acromegaly we mention: Dalip Singh Rana (b.1972), Indian wrestler and actor, also known as The Great Khali, Robert Wadlow (1918 – 1940, USA), the documented tallest man in the world who measured 2.72 m, John Rogan (1867 – 1905), recorded as the second tallest man in history, André the Giant (1946 – 1993), former wrestler and French actor, the Turkish Sultan Kosen (b.1982), who holds the record for being the tallest man in the world (2.47 m), Zhang Juncai (b.1966), the tallest Chinese, Paul Donald Wight (b.1972), American professional wrestler known as Big Show.

Why did Rainer suffer from acromegaly?

In Rainer’s case, this condition had been triggered by a tumor located in the pituitary gland that led to an overproduction of growth hormones in his body. So that was the reason behind his strange appearance. Rainer not only had abnormally large hands and feet, but his forehead and jaw were also very prominent, as well as thick lips growing over his visibly spaced teeth.

Considering Rainer’s condition, the two doctors decided to operate on him, even though the chances of success were quite slim, given that the tumor had grown a lot in ten years. A few months after the operation, Rainer was measured again. His standing height had remained the same, but the curvature of his spine was more severe, indicating that he was not stopping growing, although the pace was slower than before. Rainer’s health continued to deteriorate, soon he went blind, his hearing was also affected, deafening in his left ear, and his spine curved so much that Rainer, no longer able to move, had to just stay in bed.

Adam Rainer, the only man in history who was both a dwarf and a giant, died on March 4, 1950, at the age of 51, at the time of his death he was declared the tallest man in Austria. He was 2.33 m.

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