Epinephrine, the hormone released by the adrenal glands, plays an important role in the 'fight or flight' response of your body in case of emergency situations. Also known as adrenaline, this hormone works as a neurotransmitter. It governs the transfer of signals between the neurons and the body cells. It is released by the adrenal glands during situations of extreme stress or excitement. Panic attacks, noise, physical threat, bright lights, adventure sports, anything can trigger its release. Regarding epinephrine and norepinephrine, both are responsible for 'fight or flight' response; the following paragraphs will highlight the difference between the two.
Difference between the two
Norepinephrine is released by noradrenergic neurons and it acts as a neurotransmitter in the central and sympathetic nervous systems. This hormone is released by adrenal medulla and is also known as noradrenaline. Dopamine plays an important role in its production, and it is required for synthesis of epinephrine. Amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine also help produce this hormone, that acts as neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system.
The main difference between the structures of these two hormones is that adrenaline has a methyl group attached to its nitrogen, while noradrenaline has a hydrogen atom in place of methyl group. Epinephrine is responsible for control of all body tissues, while norepinephrine controls those parts of the brain, which are responsible for mind body relationship, and the responding actions. Elevated norepinephrine levels are associated with anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and hyperactivity. Low levels can cause low energy levels, lack of concentration, and motivation. Both these hormones regulate attention, mental focus, arousal, and cognition.
Effects of both the hormones
Release of adrenaline and noradrenaline increases heart and respiration rates. It also results in inhibition of insulin excretion leading to increased glucose and fatty acids levels in blood. Thus, more energy is experienced at cellular level. Both these hormones stimulate glycogenolysis in liver. They also cause muscle contraction. Low epinephrine levels are linked with fatigue, lack of concentration, and difficulty losing weight while high levels are associated with insomnia, anxiety, and ADHD.
Effects of these important hormones include shutting down of unnecessary processes like digestion, at the time of emergency. They activate the necessary instincts for survival and divert the blood flow from insignificant activities towards the brain and muscles. This increase the concentration towards the most urgently required responding actions. Other important effects of these hormones are increased oxygen levels in blood for increased energy, profound sweating for cooling of body, increased blood clotting chemicals in blood in case of injury, dilated pupils, etc.
Imbalance of these two hormones can cause:
- Panic attacks
- Eating disorders, obesity
- Chronic pain
- Adrenal dysfunction
- Early death
These days, artificially-synthesized epinephrine is used to treat various conditions. It is used to treat allergic reactions, COPD, acute asthma, heart diseases, etc. The patient should follow the instructions of the doctor regarding the dosage and the duration, religiously. Otherwise, he/she might have to suffer from the side effects. These doses promote constriction of blood vessels. They promote relaxation of airways in lungs and help improve breathing. They also help control blood pressure levels and heartbeat. They can cause paleness of skin, irregular or faster heartbeats, pulmonary edema. In some cases, headache, nausea, and vomiting can be experienced. Some people may suffer from excessive sweating, nervousness; and elevated sugar and blood pressure levels. In some extreme case, cerebral hemorrhage has also been noticed.
It is essential to consult with your doctor regarding the side effects of any given medication. You should strictly follow your doctor's instructions, and if you experience any side effects, you should inform your doctor immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.