Pheochromocytoma – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Pheochromocytoma is a rare catecholamine-secreting tumor derived from chromaffin cells. Pheochromocytomas are usually benign (non-cancerous), but can cause dangerously high blood pressure and other symptoms, including pounding headaches, heart palpitations, flushing of the face, nausea, and vomiting. Pheochromocytoma may occur as a single tumor or as multiple growths. It usually develops in the medulla (center or core) of one or both adrenal glands. If the diagnosis of a pheochromocytoma is overlooked, the consequences could be disastrous, even fatal; however, if a pheochromocytoma is found, it is potentially curable. If you have a pheochromocytoma, your adrenal glands can produce too much of certain hormones, raising your blood pressure and heart rate. Most pheochromocytomas start inside the adrenal gland (the adrenal medulla) where most chromaffin cells are located. There are two adrenal glands, one above each kidney in the back of the upper abdomen. Pheochromocytomas may be inherited, as they are in 10% of patients. Familial cases these tend to occur in younger patients.

Pheochromocytomas often cause the adrenal glands to make too many hormones called catecholamines. Most of the time, a pheochromocytoma is noncancerous (benign), and treatment can return blood pressure to normal. Pheochromocytomas occur most frequently in young to middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 60. Pheochromocytomas can be found anywhere in the body, though most occur in the adrenal medulla. Even a tiny benign pheochromocytoma can make a person very sick. Some people who develop pheochromocytomas have a rare inherited condition, called multiple endocrine neoplasia, that makes them prone to tumors in the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. Pheochromocytomas are, fortunately, quite rare and the vast majority of them are entirely benign. Only very rarely is a pheochromocytoma malignant. A pheochromocytoma may be life-threatening if unrecognized or untreated.

Causes of Pheochromocytoma

The common causes and risk factor’s of Pheochromocytoma include the following:

Adrenal gland tumor.

A taxia-telangiectasia.

Dopamine antagonists.

Drugs that inhibit catecholamine reuptake, such as tricyclic antidepressants and cocaine.

Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes.

Cold medications.

Tumor in the sympathetic nervous system.

Symptoms of Pheochromocytoma

Some sign and symptoms related to Pheochromocytoma are as follows:

Headaches (severe).


Excess sweating (generalized).

Rapid heart rate.

Abdominal pain.

Hypertensive retinopathy.

Weight loss.

Shaking (tremors) of your hands.


Feeling of anxiety.

Treatment of Pheochromocytoma

Here is list of the methods for treating Pheochromocytoma:

Stabilization of the person’s vital signs with medication prior to surgery is important, and may require hospitalization.

Surgical tumor removal.

Alpha blockers, also called alpha-adrenergic blocking agents or alpha-adrenergic antagonists, relax certain muscles and help small blood vessels remain open.

Phenoxybenzamine is generally given to stop hormone secretion.

Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, make the heart beat more slowly and with less force.

In the rare instances of pheochromocytomas that are malignant, chemotherapy may be required after surgery.