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Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome and Peptic Ulcer

Topic Overview

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a rare condition in which tumors called gastrinomas form in the pancreas or part of the upper small intestine (duodenum). The tumors secrete large amounts of a hormone called gastrin. Gastrin signals the stomach to produce more acid.

  • At some point during their lives, 90% to 95% of people with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome develop peptic ulcers, usually in the upper small intestine (duodenum).
  • Ulcers that occur in people with this syndrome are often hard to cure but usually can be controlled with a high dose of a proton pump inhibitor.

This syndrome is extremely rare, but it may be considered as a cause when a person has severe or repeated peptic ulcers.

  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome may occur at any age, but the symptoms are more likely to appear between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • In up to two-thirds of people with this syndrome, the tumors are cancerous (malignant) and may spread to the lymph nodes and liver.

The main treatment for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is taking proton pump inhibitors and removing the tumors causing the overproduction of acid. If this surgery is successful, you will no longer need to take medicines.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Last Revised January 4, 2012

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