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Facial Flushing Caused by Carcinoid Syndrome


Updated January 30, 2014

Carcinoid syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that are associated with tumors of the enterochromaffin cells. These cells produce specific chemicals like serotonin, substance P, neuropeptide K, and neurokinin A. Enterochromaffin cells can be found in the intestines, appendix, rectum, lungs, stomach, pancreas, and thyroid. The carcinoid syndrome causes facial flushing, diarrhea and heart valve abnormalities.

How Carcinoid Syndrome Causes Facial Flushing
The facial flushing caused by carcinoid syndrome varies with the location of the tumor. The most common flush occurs in the head and neck area in response to excitement, exercise, drinking alcohol, and eating. It usually lasts only minutes. The flushing is caused by the sudden release of the chemicals produced by the enterochromaffin cells. Carcinoid syndrome is diagnosed by a specialized urine test that measures a chemical called 5-HIAA.

Treatment of Facial Flushing With Carcinoid Syndrome
The facial flushing of carcinoid syndrome is treated by removal of the tumor and administering a medication called octreotide. Traditional antihistamines and H2-blockers like cimetidine and ranitidine used to treat acid reflux have also been effective in treating the facial flushing of carcinoid syndrome.

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