Pheochromocytoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Aug 5, 2018

Welcome to Muir Diablo Occupational Medicine, your trusted resource for comprehensive health services. In this article, we will explore pheochromocytoma, a rare adrenal gland tumor. We will delve into its causes, symptoms, and various treatment options available. Our aim is to equip you with the knowledge you need to understand this condition better and make informed decisions regarding your health.

Understanding Pheochromocytoma

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that originates in the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. These tumors develop from specialized cells called chromaffin cells. Pheochromocytomas produce excess amounts of hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, leading to a range of symptoms and potential health complications.


The exact cause of pheochromocytoma is often unknown. However, in some cases, it can be linked to inherited genetic mutations. Certain conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) and von Hippel-Lindau disease, increase the risk of developing pheochromocytoma. These genetic abnormalities affect the normal function of the chromaffin cells, leading to tumor formation.


The symptoms of pheochromocytoma are diverse and can vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Episodic high blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Persistent headache
  • Sweating excessively
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain

It's important to note that these symptoms may occur intermittently, making the diagnosis challenging. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.


Diagnosing pheochromocytoma typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and specialized tests. Your healthcare provider may order urine and blood tests to measure the levels of catecholamines and metanephrines, which are substances produced by pheochromocytomas. Imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may also be performed to locate and assess the tumor.


Once diagnosed, the treatment of pheochromocytoma depends on several factors, including tumor size, location, and whether the tumor is benign or malignant. Surgery is the primary treatment option and involves the removal of the tumor. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms or to stabilize blood pressure before surgery. Your healthcare team will determine the most appropriate course of action based on your individual situation.

At Muir Diablo Occupational Medicine, we understand the complexity of pheochromocytoma and the impact it can have on your overall well-being. Our experienced healthcare professionals collaborate closely with patients, providing personalized care and support throughout the journey.


Pheochromocytoma is a rare adrenal gland tumor causing an overproduction of hormones and leading to varying symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing this condition effectively. If you suspect you may have pheochromocytoma or have any concerns regarding your health, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team at Muir Diablo Occupational Medicine. We are dedicated to delivering exceptional healthcare services and providing comprehensive support to our patients.

Drew Loughran
Informative and insightful read.
Nov 11, 2023