Filter Glossary

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

  • Overview


    Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is an uncommon disorder marked by the growth of one or more tumors known as gastrinomas, typically found in the pancreas or the upper segment of the small intestine. These gastrinomas excrete excessive amounts of the hormone gastrin, which triggers excessive stomach acid production, leading to the development of peptic ulcers. Elevated gastrin levels can also result in symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and discomfort.

    While Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can manifest at any life stage, it’s most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 60. Standard treatment involves medications to curtail stomach acid and facilitate ulcer healing. In some cases, surgical removal of tumors may be necessary.

  • Symptoms


    Signs and symptoms of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can encompass:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Burning, aching, or unease in the upper abdominal region
    • Acid reflux and heartburn
    • Frequent burping
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Gastrointestinal bleeding
    • Unintended weight loss
    • Decreased appetite
  • When to see a doctor


    Abnormal symptoms may be a warning sign of potential dangerous diseases. Please contact our team of doctors immediately for detailed advice and update the most accurate and appropriate health care method.

    Book Appointment
  • Causes


    The precise origin of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome remains unknown. However, the syndrome generally unfolds in a consistent sequence. It commences with the formation of one or more tumors within the pancreas or a specific section of the small intestine known as the duodenum, which is adjacent to the stomach. Occasionally, these tumors may develop in other sites, such as nearby lymph nodes.

    The pancreas, situated behind and below the stomach, performs multiple functions, including the production of digestive enzymes and hormones like insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. The duodenum is where pancreatic, liver, and gallbladder juices combine for digestion, a crucial process.

    The tumors associated with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome consist of cells that excessively secrete the hormone gastrin, earning them the moniker “gastrinomas.” Elevated gastrin levels prompt excessive stomach acid production, leading to peptic ulcers and potentially diarrhea.

    Aside from the heightened acid output, these tumors often possess cancerous attributes. While their growth tends to be gradual, the cancer can metastasize, usually to nearby lymph nodes or the liver.

    Link to MEN 1

    Zollinger-Ellison syndrome can be attributed to an inherited disorder known as multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN 1). Individuals with MEN 1 experience the presence of tumors in the parathyroid glands, and in some cases, tumors may also form in their pituitary glands.

    Approximately a quarter of individuals with gastrinomas are diagnosed with MEN 1. This inherited condition may also give rise to tumors within the pancreas and various other organs.

  • Risk factors


    Having a first-degree relative, like a sibling or parent, diagnosed with MEN 1 increases the likelihood of developing Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.

  • Prevention


    Currently, there is no specific known way to prevent Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Since its exact cause remains uncertain, prevention strategies are limited. However, early detection and management of related conditions like multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1) through genetic testing and regular medical check-ups can contribute to the timely identification of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. It’s important for individuals with a family history of MEN 1 or related disorders to undergo appropriate screenings and maintain open communication with healthcare professionals to potentially reduce the risk or manage the syndrome effectively if it does occur.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023