Hyperaldosteronism is a medical condition that is characterized by excessive production of a hormone called aldosterone. The following article provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.
Adrenal glands, which are also known as suprarenal glands, are a pair of endocrine glands that are located at the top of the kidneys. These comprise the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex works with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to produce corticosteroid hormones. Since these are ductless glands, the hormones are directly secreted into the bloodstream. The hormones produced by the adrenal cortex include cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, and androgenic steroids. On the other hand, the adrenal medulla secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Aldosterone is a hormone that is required to maintain a balance between sodium and potassium levels in the blood. A person is diagnosed with hyperaldosteronism, when this hormone is produced in amounts that are larger than normal. This causes the body to lose substantial amounts of potassium and retain sodium. When the body starts retaining too much sodium, the blood volume increases, which in turn causes the blood pressure to rise. This is due to the fact that the excess sodium holds onto water.
The hormones produced by the adrenal glands assist in the bodily functions of regulation of metabolism and blood pressure. These are also essential for proper functioning of the immune system. Conditions which commonly trigger the overproduction of this hormone include aldosteronoma and bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. Also known as Conn’s syndrome, the former is a benign growth in the adrenal gland. The latter refers to the hyperactivity of the adrenal glands. While these are the common causes, there are also some others, which occur in rare circumstances. These may include genetic mutations or malignant growths in the layer at the outer part of the adrenal gland.
Glucocorticoid-Remediable Aldosteronism (GRA), is another very rare form of this condition. It tends to run in families. Excessive production of aldosterone could also be due to conditions such as liver cirrhosis, heart failure, or nephrotic syndrome.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
This condition mainly affects the blood pressure levels in the body. So, the affected individual might develop blood pressure which is not controllable, unless several kinds of medications are used. Hypertension is also accompanied by low potassium levels. The symptoms could also vary, depending on the underlying cause. Some of the common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, numbness, muscle weakness, etc.
Diagnostic tests include measuring the levels of aldosterone and renin, which is an enzyme released by the kidneys to help regulate the blood pressure. If the tests confirm a high level of aldosterone, with low levels of renin, then elevated blood pressure might be due to primary aldosteronism. If the aldosterone-renin test turns out to be a positive one, then further tests are conducted to confirm the diagnosis. These tests include oral salt loading, saline loading, Fludrocortisone Suppression Test (FST), Abdominal Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, and adrenal vein sampling.
The treatment involves drug therapy, changes in the diet and lifestyle, and surgery to remove the aldosteronoma. At home, patients should follow a healthy and low sodium diet plan, mainly including foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. They must refrain from smoking, and drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks. They must also try to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it by following an exercise regimen.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.