Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome Definition

A rare disorder in which the stomach dramatically increases hydrochloric acid production, resulting in rampant peptic ulcer disease. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome develops as a consequence of benign tumors, called gastrinomas, that secrete the digestive hormone gastrin. Gastrin signals the stomach to produce acid, which the stomach continues doing as long as gastrin remains present. The excess acid that results causes extreme irritation of the gastric mucosa (stomach’s lining), leading to numerous ulcers.

The gastrinomas may form in the pancreas or the duodenum (first segment of small intestine). Though gastrinomas are noncancerous, they often spread to other locations (notably the liver) and may develop into cancer over time. Doctors do not know what causes Zollinger-Ellison syndrome though it appears to have a correlation with multiple endocrine neoplasia (men) type 1, a disorder in which tumors (including gastrinomas) develop in numerous endocrine glands.

Symptoms of Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

The symptoms of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome are the same as those for peptic ulcer disease (dyspepsianausea, sensation of fullness, possible gastrointestinal bleeding). Endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal tract may reveal gastrinomas in the duodenum. Abdominal ultrasound, computed tomography (ct) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (mri) can detect gastrinomas in the pancreas or the duodenum.

Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome Treatment

Treatment combines medication to reduce gastric acid production, such as h2 antagonist (blocker) medications or proton pump inhibitor (ppi) medications, and surgery to remove or reduce the gastrinomas when possible.


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