Catecholamines are a group of small molecules manufactured in your nerve tissue and adrenal glands. They serve as hormones or neurotransmitters in your sympathetic nervous system.
Dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine are the major blood circulating catecholamines.
Dopamine is involved in the control of your movements. Epinephrine acts with the sympathetic nervous system to launch a quick response to stressful situations. And norepinephrine is a key neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and sympathetic divisions of your autonomic nervous system.
Your adrenal glands secrete large amounts of catecholamines in reaction to stress, and sometimes they are triggered by low blood sugar. Ever notice that painless tingling sensation after a moment of fright? Catecholamine rush.
The catecholamines play an important role in your body’s physiological response to stress. Their release:
- increases catabolism of fats ~ increasing blood lipids
- constricts peripheral blood vessels ~ elevating blood pressure
- triggers release of glucose from energy stores ~ elevating blood sugar levels
- increases rate & force of heart muscular contractions ~ increasing cardiac output
Catecholamines act by increasing your:
- heart rate
- breathing rate
- blood pressure
- muscle strength
- mental alertness
- blood to major organs ~ brain, heart, kidneys
They also reduce the amount of blood running through your skin.
Stress and vigorous exercise can cause an upsurge in your body’s dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine output. However, certain rare adrenal tumors or neuroblastoma can also be a cause for escalating the amount of circulating catecholamines.
A health condition caused rise can produce symptoms like:
If a health condition is suspected, a catecholamine urine test is usually ordered to measure circulating levels. An elevated quantity may indicate:
Catecholamine levels can also be measured via a blood test.
The accuracy of your catecholamine test can be affected by certain drugs, physical activity, stress and foods, such as:
- citrus fruit
You’ll likely be instructed to avoid these dietary items for several days before taking your dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine catecholamine test.
And for health’s sake, keep your catecholamine rush to a minimum.