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What is Hyperaldosteronism?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Hyperaldosteronism is a condition in which the adrenal glands produce excessive levels of a hormone called aldosterone. In normal amounts, aldosterone helps regulate sodium, water, and potassium levels in blood and body tissue. Hyperaldosteronism causes the kidneys to expel too much potassium from the body, which can lead to chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, and blood pressure issues. The condition rarely becomes serious enough to cause life-threatening complications, though early diagnosis and treatment is necessary to restore proper endocrine system functioning.

Doctors recognize two general types of hyperaldosteronism, primary and secondary, based on the underlying causes of increased aldosterone production. Primary hyperaldosteronism is caused by a tumor in one of the adrenal glands that wildly overproduces the hormone. Adrenal tumors are usually benign, though it is possible for a growth to turn cancerous over time. Secondary hyperaldosteronism results from a condition that alters the chemical signals received by the adrenal glands, causing them to create too much aldosterone. High blood pressure, renal disorders, and pituitary gland abnormalities can all affect adrenal functioning.

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The condition is most often seen in adults between the ages of 30 of 50, though adrenal problems can potentially affect a person of any age. Signs and symptoms can vary depending on the amount of potassium available in the bloodstream, but muscle weakness, occasional spasms, and general feelings of fatigue are common. Many patients have chronic abdominal pain and headaches when potassium levels drop very low. In addition, a person might experience numbness or tingling sensations in the extremities following physical activity. Blood pressure tends to rise with changes in potassium and sodium levels, which can worsen symptoms.

A doctor can diagnose either primary or secondary hyperaldosteronism after completing a thorough physical exam, checking a patient's medical history, and analyzing the results of blood and urine tests. Positive lab tests typically show excess potassium in the urine and abnormally high levels of aldosterone in blood plasma. Computerized tomography scans and other diagnostic imaging tests are also usually performed to look for physical signs of an adrenal tumor.

Treatment for hyperaldosteronism largely depends on the underlying cause. In the case of a noncancerous tumor, a patient typically needs to undergo surgery to remove it. Symptoms tend to improve shortly after a tumor is excised, though a patient may need to take blood pressure regulating medications and maintain a special diet to fully recover. Secondary hyperaldosteronism can usually be managed with medications that normalize aldosteronism levels and lower blood pressure.

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