What is Norepinephrine?
Norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) is one of the catecholamines. Catecholamines are hormones made by the adrenal glands. The three catecholamines are epinephrine (adrenalin), norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter (a substance that sends signals between nerve cells).
It’s released into the blood as a stress hormone when the brain perceives that a stressful event has occurred.
As part of the body’s response to stress, norepinephrine affects the way the brain pays attention and responds to events. It can also do the following:
- increase blood sugar levels
- increase heart rate
- increase contractility
Norepinephrine can also cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases blood pressure.
The normal range for norepinephrine is 217 – 1109 pg/mL.
Low levels of this hormone have been shown to play a role in ADHD, depression, and low blood pressure.
Low levels of norepinephrine can contribute to a variety of physical and mental conditions, including:
- migraine headaches
- restless leg syndrome
- sleep disorders
Chronic stress, poor nutrition, and taking certain medications, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), can make your less sensitive to norepinephrine. These factors can also cause your body to start producing less norepinephrine.
Having too much norepinephrine can cause:
- high blood pressure
- excessive sweating
- heart palpitations
Some medical conditions cause people to have too much norepinephrine. These include:
- pheochromocytoma, a tumor that forms in your adrenal glands
- paranganglioma, a tumor that forms on the outside of your adrenal glands
Ongoing stress can also cause high levels of norepinephrine.
- Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Catecholamines – plasma. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:302-305.
- Guber HA, Farag AF, Lo J, Sharp J. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.
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