What is hyperaldosteronism?
Hyperaldosteronism is a condition in which one or both adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone (a substance produced by the body) that helps control the levels of potassium and sodium in the blood.
The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system. They produce hormones the body needs to carry out daily functions, including testosterone, aldosterone and adrenaline. The adrenal glands are located above each kidney and are about the size of your thumb.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes hyperaldosteronism?
Hyperaldosteronism can be caused by a benign (noncancerous) tumor on the adrenal gland. Another possible cause of hyperaldosteronism is hyperplasia (overactivity) of the adrenal glands. In some cases, hyperaldosteronism is an inherited condition.
What are the symptoms of hyperaldosteronism?
Hyperaldosteronism can lower potassium levels in the body, which can cause the following symptoms:
Diagnosis and Tests
When is hyperaldosteronism suspected?
People who are at the greatest risk for hyperaldosteronism are those who have hypertension (high blood pressure) that is difficult to control even if the patient is taking several medications at the same time. Hyperaldosteronism is also more likely in people who:
- Have hypertension and low potassium levels.
- Have a tumor on the adrenal gland.
- Develop hypertension at a young age.
How is hyperaldosteronism diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks you might have hyperaldosteronism, he or she will order a blood test to check the levels of aldosterone and renin (a protein that is secreted by the kidneys and helps keep blood pressure levels in the normal range). If the aldosterone level is high and the renin level is low, the doctor will order other tests or refer you to a specialist. For instance, the doctor may order a computed tomography (CT) scan to see if there is a tumor on the adrenal gland.
To check for hyperplasia (overactivity) of the adrenal glands, the doctor may order a test in which blood samples are taken directly from both adrenal glands. If one gland has a higher level of aldosterone, the cause is likely a tumor; if both glands have a high aldosterone level, then it is probably hyperplasia.
Management and Treatment
How is hyperaldosteronism treated?
The treatment of hyperaldosteronism depends on the cause. If the cause is hyperplasia in both adrenal glands, your doctor may prescribe a drug that blocks the effects of aldosterone. These drugs include spironolactone (Aldactone®), eplerenone (Inspra®), or amiloride (Midamor®).
If the cause is a tumor on one of the adrenal glands, the gland can be removed with surgery, or the same medications can be used. Those should improve the blood pressure control, and may reduce the number of medications you need to control your blood pressure.
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