Phaeochromocytoma on an MRI scan. Photograph: endocrinediseases.org
"Phaeochromocytoma" - A rare tumour of cells that secrete epinephrene (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). It causes increased production of these hormones, leading to hypertension. The tumours usually develop in the medulla (core) of the adrenal glands, and are most common in young to middle-aged adults.
Hypertension is the only sign most of the time, but pressure on the tumour, emotional upset, change in posture, or taking beta-blocker drugs can cause a surge of hormones. This surge brings on a sudden rise in blood pressure, palpitations, headache, nausea, vomiting, facial, flushing, sweating, and, sometimes, a feeling of impending death.
Blood tests and urinalysis are used to make a diagnosis, CT scanning, MRI, and radioisotope scanning may be used to locate the tumours, which are then usually removed surgically. Follow-up medical checks are required because the condition occasionally recurs.
"phaeochromocytoma". British Medical Association (2007). Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 2nd ed. London: Dorling Kindersley (DK). p445.