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Signs & Symptoms

Severe Diarrhea and Flushing Associated With Carcinoid Syndrome

Subtle Signs and Symptoms of Metastatic Carcinoid Tumors

"Carcinoid syndrome" refers to the set of symptoms that may result from active metastatic carcinoid tumors releasing excess hormones into the body. A commonly overproduced hormone of active metastatic carcinoid tumors is serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that can interfere with the normal function of the stomach. Serotonin is found in abundance in the gastrointestinal system. When metastatic carcinoid tumors spread, or metastasize, they can start producing excess hormones that can lead to these sudden and severe symptoms. In many cases, patients are diagnosed after these symptoms start to develop.

The symptoms associated with active metastatic carcinoid tumors can be subtle and common to other types of GI disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They may also come and go and be more severe at certain times than others. That's why it may have taken some time for you to get a diagnosis of carcinoid syndrome. It is important to always talk to your health care provider if you notice or feel any new symptoms.

The Symptoms of Carcinoid Syndrome

Carcinoid syndrome can include a set of symptoms that range in severity. Some patients may experience all or just some of these symptoms. Two of the most common symptoms associated with carcinoid syndrome are severe diarrhea and flushing. When flushing occurs, you may turn red and feel warm. Diarrhea and flushing can occur at the same time or you can experience one without the other.

Signs of Diarrhea and Flushing Associated with Carcinoid Syndrome

Diarrhea:
  • Stools are watery
  • The diarrhea can be mild to severe
  • Episodes can occur several times a day and can interfere with daily activities
  • Nocturnal diarrhea (diarrhea that occurs at night, usually when a patient is asleep)

Having excessive diarrhea can drain your body of water, causing dehydration and loss of electrolytes or nutrients and minerals. This can affect your digestion, body weight, and nutrition absorption, leaving you feeling weak and tired.

Flushing:
  • Flushing may be temporary or may continue, and appears suddenly, primarily on the face or neck, and may not be associated with sweating
  • With flushing, the skin looks deep red or purple
  • You may also feel warm, unpleasant, and have a rapid heartbeat
  • The flush can last from a few minutes to several hours

If you have carcinoid syndrome, it is especially important that all members of your health care team be aware of your condition. This includes doctors and nurses who provide primary or specialized care, as well as emergency care.

The symptoms of carcinoid syndrome can range in severity. It is very important that you tell your health care team about any new symptoms you have, no matter how mild or severe they are. You must also inform your team of any changes in existing symptoms, especially if they become more severe.

Inform your health care team immediately if you develop severe diarrhea or flushing with abdominal pain.