Primary aldosteronism (al-DOS-tuh-ro-niz-um) is a type of hormonal disorder that leads to high blood pressure. Your adrenal glands produce a number of essential hormones. One of these is aldosterone, which balances sodium and potassium in your blood.
In primary aldosteronism, your adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, causing you to lose potassium and retain sodium. The excess sodium in turn holds onto water, increasing your blood volume and blood pressure.
Diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism are important because people with this form of high blood pressure have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, the high blood pressure associated with primary aldosteronism may be curable.
Options for people with primary aldosteronism include medications, lifestyle modifications and surgery.
Common conditions causing the overproduction of aldosterone include:
- A benign growth in an adrenal gland (aldosterone-producing adenoma) — a condition also known as Conn’s syndrome
- Overactivity of both adrenal glands (idiopathic hyperaldosteronism)
In rare cases, primary aldosteronism may be caused by:
- A malignant growth of the outer layer (cortex) of the adrenal gland (adrenal cortical cancer)
- A rare type of primary aldosteronism called glucocorticoid-remediable aldosteronism that runs in families and causes high blood pressure in children and young adults
The main signs of primary aldosteronism are:
- Moderate to severe high blood pressure
- High blood pressure that takes several medications to control (resistant hypertension)
- High blood pressure along with a low potassium level (hypokalemia)
When to see a doctor
Have your blood pressure checked regularly, especially if you have risk factors for high blood pressure, for example if:
- You’re age 45 or older
- You have a family history of high blood pressure
- You’re overweight
- You have a sedentary lifestyle
- You use tobacco
- You drink a lot of alcohol
- You have dietary imbalances (too much salt, not enough potassium)