Pheochromocytoma is a tumor found in the adrenal medulla (the inner part of the adrenal gland). The adrenal medulla makes the hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). If a tumor forms in this area, it can cause too much of these hormones to be made. This can be very dangerous, as it causes very high blood pressure. Pheochromocytoma in the adrenal gland is rarely cancerous, but it may be linked to cancer in other glands, like the thyroid.
It is important to diagnose this problem early. Finding and treating it could cure unsafe blood pressure. If it is not treated, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and cause the arteries to work poorly.
What Happens Under Normal Conditions?
Anatomy of the Adrenal Gland
The adrenal glands are found above each kidney. They are triangle-shaped, and measure about half an inch in height and 3 inches in length. Each adrenal gland has 2 layers.
- The adrenal medulla (inner part) makes epinephrine (also called adrenaline).
- The adrenal cortex (outer part) makes steroid hormones (such as cortisone and aldosterone).
The adrenal glands control many processes in the body. Their job is to keep the body in balance by making various hormones that are critical for maintaining good health.
These hormones do many important things. For example, they help regulate fluid and salt levels in the body that affect blood volume and blood pressure. They also help the body react to stress and change. They cause a faster heart rate and boost other systems that help you to react quickly with a burst of energy when needed. Problems in the cortex or the medulla, then, can result in high blood pressure.