Medical Q&As

Phaeochromocytoma - what is it?

I have been told I have a condition called phaeochromocytoma which has caused my high blood pressure. Can you tell me something about this?

Phaeochromocytoma is the rather exotic name for a very rare tumour of the adrenal glands. These tumours tend to be benign and produce their effects by over secretion of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are produced in the adrenal glands. This over secretion gives rise to headache, sweating, palpitations, tremors and feelings of anxiety. Symptoms tend to be episodic. Sufferers often describe attacks beginning suddenly with most episodes lasting less than one hourís duration. During the attack the levels of circulating adrenaline and noradrenaline can be quite high and sufferers are usually noted to have very high blood pressure. In some cases the blood pressure reverts to normal levels between attacks. These acute episodes may only happen once every few months or in some cases they might happen several times in the one day. The frequency and severity of attacks tends to increase over time. Surgery is usually the preferred treatment option however; this may not be feasible if multiple tumours are present. Sometimes phaeochromocytoma can occur in sympathetic nervous tissue outside of the adrenal glands. If surgery is not feasible the condition can be treated with special medication that counteracts the effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline.