Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a complex condition in which one or more tumors form in your pancreas or the upper part of your small intestine (duodenum). These tumors, called gastrinomas, secrete large amounts of the hormone gastrin, which causes your stomach to produce too much acid. The excess acid, in turn, leads to peptic ulcers.

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES) is rare. The disease may occur at any time in life, but people are usually diagnosed between ages 30 and 50. Medications to reduce stomach acid and heal the ulcers is the usual treatment for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.

Symptoms Causes

Signs and symptoms of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome may include:

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

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have a persistent, burning, aching or gnawing pain in your upper abdomen, especially if you've also been experiencing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Tell your doctor if you've used over-the-counter acid-reducing medications such as omeprazole (Prilosec), cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid) or ranitidine (Zantac) for long periods of time. These medications may mask your symptoms, which could delay your diagnosis. If you have Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, early detection and treatment are important.

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