What are the Different Pheochromocytoma Symptoms?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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A pheochromocytoma is a relatively rare form of tumor that is usually benign, but its location can seriously affect the way the adrenal glands work. Since this form of tumor is located within one of the adrenal glands, it can have a profound effect on some of the hormones that are produced by it. In particular, the tumor causes the gland to produce elevated levels of hormones named catecholamines, which are principally the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine. The resulting pheochromocytoma symptoms from these elevated hormones are anything from briefly uncomfortable to extremely serious.

Three of the most common pheochromocytoma symptoms are high blood pressure, headache, and rapid heart rate or palpitations. There are certainly other potential symptoms that emerge, as the body is flooded with extra norepinephrine and adrenaline/epinephrine. It’s easy to understand some of the additional pheochromocytoma symptoms because they’re associated with the human fight/flight response that causes an additional release of these hormones. Some people feel a strong sense of anxiety, have chest pain, sweat profusely, or experience sudden slow or fast heart rate after activities involving minimal exertion, such as having bowel movement.


Additional pheochromocytoma symptoms may vary as to the individual. Some people experience chest pain equivalent to angina or they may have heart burn sensations or pain in the stomach that they’d normally associate with indigestion. Those who have these tumors may find they easily get nauseous or they have a difficult time tolerating warmer temperatures, and a tumor may spark off a number of symptoms at once. In certain cases, blood pressure can go from being high to extremely high creating a blood pressure crisis and a medical emergency, and one hallmark of this illness is that medical drug treatments of hypertension may not work.

There are a number of concerns if pheochromocytoma symptoms are present, and especially if they’re not recognized. Unresolved hypertension may damage the arteries, increasing risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Moreover, people with sufficiently large tumors can experience multiple, uncomfortable and dangerous episodes daily, where the heart races, the blood pressure rises, and other pheochromocytoma symptoms occur. This is risky and uncomfortable, so it is very important that this condition be diagnosed and treated.

Doctors may look at pattern of pheochromocytoma symptoms, evidence of hypertensive crises, descriptions of the patient, and age of people when determining how to proceed. Typically, patients who have this condition are middle-aged, with most common occurrence at about the age of 40, though some can develop this disease sooner. Evidence of this tumor suggests surgical removal where possible. Rarely, a pheochromocytoma is cancerous and surgical treatment is not advised.



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