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What is an adrenaline rush?

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands on the kidneys. An adrenaline rush is a sudden increased secretion of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.

The major role of adrenaline is to protect the body in stressful and life-threatening situations. Besides real physical threats, other situations that cause stress and anxiety can also cause an adrenaline rush. These situations may include chronic stress, anxiety, imagined situations, brain disorders, adrenal gland disorders, heart failure, kidney failure, and other problems.

Normally, after a stressful situation has passed, the adrenaline levels in the body go back to normal.

Increased adrenaline production from the adrenal glands can also be caused by pheochromocytoma in rare cases. Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal medulla. They are unilateral and solitary in 80% of cases, while in 10% of cases they can be bilateral. In 10% of cases phaeochromocytoma can be extra-adrenal. These tumors typically occur in early life to mild adult life.

The diagnosis of this rare tumor of the adrenal glands is established by measuring the levels of catecholamines and metanephrines in the blood. If high levels of cathecolamines and metanephrines are found in the lab tests, a CTI and MRI are usually done to help localize the tumor.

How is the adrenaline secreted?

When there is a threat to our body, the hypothalamus in the brain gives a signal to the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. The adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands, by transforming tyrosine into dopamine. Adrenal glands release adrenaline into the bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms of an adrenaline rush

The most common signs and symptoms of an adrenaline rush are:

  • Faster heartbeat
  • Palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the chest
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating and performing everyday life activities
  • Increased sensitivity
  • More strength
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss

If a person suffers from heart problems, an adrenaline rush can cause heart failure and even heart attack.

How is adrenaline rush treated?

When an adrenaline rush occurs for natural reasons, no treatment is needed. If an adrenaline rush is caused by some other conditions like anxiety, panic disorders, or chronic stress, anti-anxiety medications are prescribed. These medications (like SSRIs) block the trigger that will make the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. Also, beta blockers are used to prevent damage to the heart.

It is very important to know how to relax and avoid stressful situations that can later lead to an adrenaline rush.

When pheochromocytoma is the cause of an increased adrenal production, surgical resection of the tumor is the first choice of treatment. Proper pre-treatment and a normal level of catecholamines are required for the surgery procedure to be performed.

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