Primary aldosteronism: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

By: Bel Marra Health | Blood Pressure | Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 05:30 AM

Kidney with adrenal glandThere are many factors that can contribute to high blood pressure such as being overweight, poor diet, and lack of physical activity. But there is another condition that can also lead to high blood pressure: it’s primary aldosteronism.

Primary aldosteronism is a hormone disorder that can contribute to high blood pressure. Our adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones – you may be familiar with cortisol, the stress hormone secreted by these glands. Another hormone produced by the adrenal glands is called aldosterone, which balances out potassium and sodium levels.

Primary aldosteronism can also be referred to as Conn’s syndrome or hyperaldosteronism.

Causes and symptoms of primary aldosteronism

The adrenal glands produce aldosterone, but when this hormone is overproduced, our body loses potassium and retains sodium, which holds on to water. This results in higher volume of blood and, subsequently, higher blood pressure.

The adrenal glands may start producing too much aldosterone when there is a benign growth on the gland or when the adrenal gland becomes overactive. In rare cases, primary aldosteronism can be caused by a growth on the outer layer of the adrenal gland. The condition may also run in the family – although this is very rare.

Symptoms of primary aldosteronism include:

  • Moderate to severe high blood pressure
  • Resistant hypertension – numerous medications are required to lower blood pressure
  • Hypokalemia – high blood pressure with low potassium

Tests to help diagnose primary aldosteronism

Your doctor will take blood samples to test your levels of aldosterone and renin, which is an enzyme your kidneys release to control blood pressure. If levels are elevated, your doctor will run confirming tests such as oral salt loading tests, saline infusion test, and fludrocortisone suppression test.

Other tests include abdominal computerized tomography (CT) scan and adrenal vein sampling in order to detect any tumor near the adrenal gland or compare blood samples from the right and left adrenal veins. Differences will reveal overactivity in the gland.

Treatment and prevention of primary aldosteronism

The cause of primary aldosteronism will determine the treatment. One treatment option is surgical removal of the adrenal gland. This is usually the case when there is a tumor or growth present. The surgery can return blood pressure back to normal. Aldosterone-blocking medication may also be prescribed if surgery is not an option. The risk associated with aldosterone-blocking medications is that high blood pressure could return once you stop taking them.

Lifestyle changes, too, can have an impact on treatment of primary aldosteronism. Since there are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to high blood pressure, it’s important to partake in healthy living habits. Some effective lifestyle habits to treat primary aldosteronism include:

  • Maintaining healthy weight
  • Minimizing sodium consumption
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • Exercising
  • Reducing stress
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption.

It’s not always possible to prevent primary aldosteronism, but a good practice is to always practice healthy lifestyle habits to reduce your risk of developing any illness.

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