Know the basics
What is pheochromocytoma?
Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. Meanwhile, the adrenal glands secrete hormones called epinephrine or other similar substances causing high blood pressure, tachycardia, and headache and sweating. Pheochromocytoma is one of the causes of hypertension.
How common is pheochromocytoma?
According to statistics, there are about 2 to 8 cases of pheochromocytoma over 1 million people each year. The disease can occur at any gender and any age but commonly between 30 and 50 years old. Since this is a rare genetic disease so those who have a family member with this condition will have a high risk of disease.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of pheochromocytoma?
A common symptom is headache attacks, anxiety, abnormal heart palpitations, sweating, high blood pressure, heat intolerance, dizziness when standing, abdominal pain, constipation, chest tightness. In addition, the symptoms of high blood pressure if it is uncontrolled can lead to vision loss, heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Unable to control your blood pressure with conventional medications.
- Have a family member with the disease.
- Have a family member who suffers from a disease related to gene abnormalities as multi endocrine neoplasia, Von Hippel-Lindau disease, nerve fiber tumors and tumor type 1 parasympathetic ganglion
Know the causes
What causes pheochromocytoma?
Currently researchers have found specific causes of pheochromocytoma. The diseases often does not relate to genetic factors, but 10% cases is caused by tumors of endocrine disorders in the family.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for pheochromocytoma?
There are many risk factors for pheochromocytoma, such as:
- Von Hippel-Lindau Disease: this disease have tumors appeared in multiple locations on the body, usually in the central nervous system, endocrine glands, pancreas and kidneys
- Nervous tumors Disease Type 1: This disease usually causes multiple tumors on the skin, hyperpigmentation spots on the skin and tumors of the optic nerve.
- Parasympathetic ganglion tumor genetic causes tumors in the adrenal medulla and parasympathetic ganglion
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia: this disease develops endocrine tumors in many parts of the body. Common places are the thyroid, parathyroid, lips, tongue and gastrointestinal tract.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is pheochromocytoma diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose the disease by asking medical history and clinical examination of symptoms. Then the doctor will give you a blood test and a urine test within 24 hours to measure the level of hormones secreted by tumors. You should not drink alcohol, coffee or amphetamines, benzodiazepines, some antidepressants or lithium during tests because it may lead to wrong results.
In addition, MRI, CT and diagnostic imaging method can be conducted to find the tumor. The tumors outside the adrenal glands may need full body image with special medical tests.
How is pheochromocytoma treated?
Over 90% of pheochromocytoma can be cured by surgical tumor removal. Your doctor may prescribe you medicines to lower blood pressure while waiting for surgery.
However, surgical procedures can cause complications, including bleeding and infection but this very rarely happens. For instance myeloma and malignant pheochromocytoma cannot be cured by surgery. Then the doctor may use chemotherapy and radiation therapy to control the condition.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pheochromocytoma?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with pheochromocytoma:
- Tell your doctor if you suffer from pheochromocytoma previously or have family members suffering from endocrine tumors. Your family must be screened by the adrenal medulla tumor blood tests.
- Tell your doctor if you have blurred vision, severe headaches, weak first half of the body, chest pain, or increased heart rate.
- Tell your doctor if you have ankle swelling, shortness of breath, weakness in people and dizziness when standing up.
- Tell your doctor if the symptoms recur after surgery.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 213.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 1003.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017