Posted October 4, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read

Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It plays an important role in your body’s `fight-or-flight` response. It’s also used as a medication to treat many life-threatening conditions.

What is Epinephrine?

  • Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.

  • As a hormone, it’s made and released by your adrenal glands, which are hat-shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney.

  • As a central nervous system neurotransmitter, it’s a chemical messenger that helps transmit nerve signals across nerve endings to another nerve cell, muscle cell or gland cell.

  • Epinephrine is part of your sympathetic nervous system, which is part of your body’s emergency response system to danger, the fight-or-flight response.

  • Medically, the flight-or-flight response is known as the acute stress response.

What does epinephrine do in the body?

  • As a neurotransmitter, epinephrine plays a small role.

  • Only a small amount is produced in your nerves.

  • It plays a role in metabolism, attention, focus, panic and excitement.

  • Abnormal levels are linked to sleep disorders, anxiety, hypertension and lowered immunity.

  • Epinephrine’s major action is in its role as a hormone.

  • Epinephrine is released by your adrenal glands in response to stress.

  • This reaction causes a number of changes in your body and is known as the fight-or-flight response.

How is epinephrine used as a medication?

When used as a medication, synthetic epinephrine is used to treat:

  • Cardiac arrest/cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): Epinephrine stimulates your heart.

  • Eye surgery: Epinephrine helps keep your pupils dilated.

  • Septic shock: Epinephrine increases your blood pressure.

  • Asthma: Epinephrine opens airways and decreases airway spasms.

  • Anaphylaxis: Epinephrine relaxes airway muscles. It’s the first-response treatment for this severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.

What are the side effects of epinephrine as a medication?

Side effects of epinephrine as an aerosol or injection that require medical attention include:

  • Allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of your face, lips or tongue.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Vomiting.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Nervousness.
  • Palpitations.
  • Seizures.
  • Tremor.
  • Trouble passing urine or change in the amount of urine.
  • Trouble sleeping.

What health conditions result from low levels of epinephrine?

Health conditions that result from low levels of epinephrine include:

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Headaches.

  • Sleeping problems.

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rate.

What health conditions result from high levels of epinephrine?

Health conditions that result from high levels of epinephrine include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension).

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.

  • Excessive sweating.

  • Cold or pale skin.

  • Severe headaches.

  • Nervous feeling, jitters.

  • Epinephrine overdose, which can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and death.

  • Pheochromocytoma, which is an adrenal gland tumor.

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