Primary Aldosteronism

What is Primary Aldosteronism?

Primary Aldosteronism is also called primary hyperaldosteronism and Conn’s syndrome. Previously considered a rare condition, it is now considered a common cause for high blood pressure.

The condition causes the adrenal glands to make too much of a hormone called aldosterone. When the body has the right amount of aldosterone it makes sure there is a proper amount of potassium and sodium in the blood.

When the body has too much aldosterone it holds onto sodium (salt) and water and get rid of potassium. Too much salt and water causes high blood volume which in turn causes high blood pressure. There are many causes of primary aldosteronism, including a bad roll of the genetic dice, poor diet, tumors in the adrenal glands, a complication from another problem with lungs, kidneys or the heart.

What are the Symptoms of Primary Aldosteronism?

Common symptoms can be quite dramatic. They include more headaches than usual; sudden paralysis that comes and goes; numbness that comes and goes; feeling tired all of the time; and weakness in the muscles.

The most common symptoms are moderate or high blood pressure readings and low blood potassium readings. Patients that have high blood pressure for a while so that they need more than one medication also often develop primary aldosteronism.

Primary Aldosteronism Causes

The hormone aldosterone is produced in the adrenal gland and is used by the body to balance potassium and sodium levels in the bloodstream. When the adrenal gland produces too much of the hormone, it leads to a loss of potassium, causing the blood to retain too much sodium. This leads to high blood pressure. Hypertension that is caused by this imbalance is called Primary Aldosteronism or Conn’s Syndrome. This can be caused by a tumor, either benign or more rarely malignant, called an adenoma, that grows on the adrenal gland. It can also be caused by overactivity of the adrenal gland that occurs spontaneously. Idiopathic aldosteronism occurs 20%-30% of the time. Some risk factors that can lead to the development of Primary Aldosteronism include smoking, lack of exercise and obesity.

How is Primary Aldosteronism Treated?

The longer a patient waits to get medical help, the worse off the high blood pressure becomes. Treating primary aldosteronism and high blood pressure early enough helps reduce symptoms and long-term risks like heart attacks and strokes.

Medications for primary aldosteronism include water pills to flush excess water from the body and drugs to make the body ignore all the extra aldosterone flooding it.

Lifestyle changes to help reduce blood pressure also help reduce primary aldosteronism symptoms. Eating a healthier diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking and reducing or eliminating alcohol helps medications work better.

In bad cases, the adrenal gland may have to be surgically removed.

Primary Aldosteronism Prevention

It is those risk factors that a patient can affect to mitigate the risk of developing Conn’s Syndrome. Cessation of smoking is a healthy choice for any person, but particularly if the patient is at risk for high blood pressure or elevated levels of sodium in the blood, quitting smoking could be very helpful. A healthy diet that controls for cholesterol and salt can also be very helpful in preventing the onset of hypertension, whether it is caused by excessive aldosterone or not. Conn’s Syndrome is more dangerous than other forms of high blood pressure, but preventing any sort of hypertension is good for the patient. Reducing alcohol intake can be a preventive measure as well. Ensuring that the patient is getting enough potassium in his or her diet can reduce the risk of Primary Aldosteronism also.