Pheochromocytoma - Symptoms and Signs

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What are the symptoms of a pheochromocytoma?

Someone with a pheochromocytoma usually has three classic symptoms -- headache, sweating, and heart palpitations (a fast heart beat) in association with markedly elevated blood pressure (hypertension). Other conditions that may accompany these classic symptoms are as follows: anxiety, nausea, tremors, weakness, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

Some people, however, never develop symptoms of a pheochromocytoma. Up to 10% of cases are discovered incidentally, meaning that they are not suspected and only found when the patient is undergoing diagnostic studies for other conditions. In some cases, the high blood pressure comes and goes and may be difficult to document. In other cases, the blood pressure is consistently elevated and easily recorded.

Pheochromocytomas are present in only about 0.2% of all people with high blood pressure. There are certain conditions, however, in which the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma may rank high on the list of possibilities; they are discussed below.

Return to Pheochromocytoma

See what others are saying

Comment from: JigokuSenshi, 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: March 30

I had severe headaches and blood pressure problems for years. It started when I was very young and was not that bad for a long time, but we found out the cause at age 14. I went in to get checked up and had pneumonia, but my blood pressure was unusually high. No scans (MRI, CT scan, chemical, etc) other than a simple ultrasound found a golf sized tumor inside of my bladder. I had surgery and they were able to take out the main tumor, but they found out it was malignant. I'm 22 and again still suffering from horrible headaches. I got really sick recently and had to go to the hospital. My blood pressure was around 200 over 150 or something like that. It took them several days to get it under control. They wanted to do a ton of tests again, but I told them I only wanted to get another ultrasound. They again found another mass around my bladder area. They are not sure if it's a tumor yet, but it very well could be. Not sure if I will have to get surgery again. We are trying to figure stuff out. No doctors really now how to treat me or other patients with pheochromocytoma since it's so rare and doctors have no experience with it. Hope this helps some other people.

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Comment from: 43 woman survivor, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 29

I had Pheo in the year of 2010 on the right adrenal gland. I thought I was having a stroke when I first felt the symptoms. I had a severe headache on the right side of my head that went down the side of my neck to my stomach. I thought I was going to throw up. I went to doctor and he sent me to a nerve specialist at first. He ordered an ultrasound which noted a 7 cm tumor, the size of a baseball. It was causing me to have heart palpitations and those weird spells where I would shake and feel headache pain and my stomach would feel nauseated. My family doctor sent me to a hormone specialist who diagnosed me with Pheochromacytoma and started the process. He was great. I felt better after surgery. It took me a little longer to get my energy back but I got through it okay.

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