Adrenal glands are glands present on the kidneys. They are responsible for production of epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. They are also called catecholamines. They are also called ‘flight or fight' hormones and typically causes the adrenalin rush. The inside of the adrenalin glands called medulla produces these hormones.
When there is a tumour in the medulla, there is excessive production of catecholamines. Sometimes the pheochromocytoma is present in chromaffin cells which produce catecholamines in other parts of the body. This is called external pheochromocytoma. Excessive production of hormones leads to symptoms like headaches, fast heart beats or palpitations and high blood pressure. There may be other symptoms like weight loss, nausea, dizziness, tremors, weakness and even abdominal pain.
Checking with a physician when anyone experiences such symptoms is essential. For many people pheochromocytoma is asymptomatic and a casual visit to the doctor may reveal the disease.
Pheochromocytoma is a genetic condition caused due to a dominant gene and runs in families. However, some people may develop pheochromocytoma and such incidents are called sporadic.
Physicians may conduct tests like urine test to understand the levels of catecholamines and metanephrine in the blood. If the findings are 2 times more than the usual level, MRI scan or CT scan is conducted to identify the tumour.
Treatment for pheochromocytoma is only surgery and the trickiest part of surgery is maintaining the blood pressure. Sometimes the blood pressure has a sharp increase due to effect of anaesthesia. If tumours are malignant then radiation or chemotherapy is the last resort.
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