A pheochromocytoma is an adrenal gland tumor that secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure, among other functions. Pheochromocytomas occur most frequently in young to middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 60. Ten percent of individuals affected are children who usually develop symptoms between the ages of 6 and 14.
The causes of pheochromocytoma are multifactorial, meaning "many factors" contribute to the cause of the condition. In most cases, both genetic and environmental factors play a role. The condition can occur alone or in combination with other disorders. The following are the most common disorders associated with pheochromocytoma:
The most common symptom of pheochromocytoma is high blood pressure, which is sometimes extreme. Each child may experience symptoms differently. Other symptoms may include:
The symptoms of pheochromocytoma may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for pheochromocytoma may include:
Specific treatment for pheochromocytoma will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Treatment for pheochromocytoma usually includes removing the tumor. Before removing the tumor, however, your child's physician may prescribe medications to control high blood pressure. In children, there may be multiple tumors. An extensive evaluation to locate them will be required before surgery.
Continuous medical follow-up may be required to monitor the development of future tumors.
Family members may also want to consider testing to rule out the presence of the tumors, as genetics does appear to play a role in some cases.