Norepinephrine is a type of neurotransmitter, which is a chemical responsible for moving nerve impulses between neurons. It is found in both the central and sympathetic nervous systems, and it is made by the adrenal gland. Besides acting as a neurotransmitter, this chemical also acts as a stress hormone. It has a role to play in a person’s fight-or-flight response, working in conjunction with epinephrine. In this role, it increases a person’s heart rate and blood flow to the muscles; it also stimulates the release of blood sugar and is often compared to adrenaline.
Sometimes, norepinephrine is used as a drug. It is often used to treat patients with low blood pressure, especially the type that is considered potentially fatal. For example, it may be used in situations in which a medical condition or medical emergency has caused a person’s blood pressure to become dangerously low. It may be used when it is necessary to perform CPR, for instance.
Typically, this chemical is injected into a patient’s body through a large vein. It is usually administered in a hospital, but it may also be used elsewhere in an emergency medical situation. Depending on how quickly the patient responds to the injection, the medication may only be used for a short time, but some people have to take it for a week or more. Most patients do not have to worry about missing doses accidentally, as a medical professional usually administers the injections, and the patients do not have to remember when it’s time to receive a new dose.
Though this medication can be lifesaving, it does have the potential to cause certain side effects. For example, a person may develop hives and have breathing problems, or he may have facial, mouth, or throat swelling. Any of these side effects should get immediate medical attention.
Other serious potential side effects of norepinephrine include pain or weakness in the muscles, numbness in the extremities, bluish lips and nail beds, and skin that looks discolored and feels irritated. Some people may experience nausea and vomiting, and the lack of normal amounts of urine is another potential side effect. Also among the serious side effects of this medication are headaches that come on suddenly, disorientation, speech problems, and vision changes. A patient should inform a medical professional right away if he experiences any of these symptoms while on this drug.