Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome refers to a rare condition in which one or more tumors take shape in the pancreas or duodenum. These tumors are called gastrinomas. In normal condition, your body will release small amounts of gastrin after you eat, triggering the stomach to make gastric acid that breaks down food and liquid.

However, gastrinomas secretes large amounts of gastrin, due to which, your stomach will produce more acid than needed. As a result, extra acid brings about peptic ulcers and other conditions. What’s worse is that the tumors may become cancerous and spread to other areas of the body in some cases.

This rare condition affects only 1 in every 1 million people, and those who are diagnosed with it are usually between the ages of 20 and 50.

Symptoms

People with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome may have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning, aching, gnawing or discomfort in your upper abdomen
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding in your digestive tract
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Decreased appetite

Causes

Experts haven’t identified the exact cause of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome yet. But about 25 to 30 percent of cases result from an inherited genetic disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). This condition may also cause tumors to form in the parathyroid and pituitary glands.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will diagnose Zollinger-Ellison syndrome based on:

  • Medical history
  • Blood tests
  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Imaging tests

Treatment

Treatment of tumors

The only treatment that can cure Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is removing the tumors surgically. Sometimes, the tumor may spread to other organs and lead to severe results. The operation is challenging because the tumors are often so small that surgeons have difficulties locating these tumors. Surgery is usually an option for people with one single tumor. But the doctor may recommend removing a large one if multiple tumors are found.

To control tumor growth, doctors may also recommend the following things:

  • Removing as much of a liver tumor as possible
  • Attempting to destroy the tumor by cutting off the blood supply or by using heat to destroy cancer cells
  • Injecting drugs into the tumor to relieve cancer symptoms
  • Chemotherapy
  • Liver transplant

Treatment of excess acid

Doctors may treat the condition with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). By controlling the excess acid production, PPIs can help relieve peptic ulcer pain and promote healing. These drugs include:

It should be noted that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors may increase the risk of hip, wrist, and spine fractures, especially in people who are 50 or older. Therefore, people should consult doctors and weigh the benefits against the risk before taking these medications.

Besides, Octreotide (Sandostatin) that counteract the effects of gastrin may benefit some people.


Keyword: Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.

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Peptic Ulcers: Symptoms, Treatment

What Causes Stomach Cramps and Diarrhea in Children?

Liver Transplant: Uses, Risk, Preparation

What are the Basics of Pancreatic Cancer?

Abdominal Pain: Possible Causes

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.