An excess of the hormone aldosterone that causes changes in body chemistry

  • More common over the age of 30
  • More common in females
  • Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors

Aldosterone is a hormone that is produced by the outer layers of the adrenal glands and acts on the kidneys to regulate salt balance and blood pressure. Overproduction of aldosterone by one or both adrenal glands is called hyperaldosteronism and leads to a high level of salt in the body and loss of the mineral potassium in the urine. High salt levels cause high blood pressure (see Hypertension), but fewer than 1 in 100 people with high blood pressure have hyperaldosteronism.

Hyperaldosteronism is usually due to a noncancerous tumour in the adrenal cortex. It may also result from other conditions, such as chronic heart failure, cirrhosis, and nephrotic syndrome. Hyperaldosteronism due to an adrenal tumour is more common after the age of 30 and in women.

What are the symptoms?

Hyperaldosteronism does not always produce noticeable symptoms, but if symptoms of the condition do develop, they may include:

  • Muscle weakness and cramps.

  • Frequent passage of large amounts of urine, accompanied by thirst.

Hyperaldosteronism also leads to high blood pressure, which rarely produces noticeable symptoms but may be detected during a routine health checkup.

What might be done?

Your doctor may arrange blood tests to measure salt, potassium, and aldosterone levels and CT scanning to look for a tumour. If a tumour is found, the adrenal gland may be surgically removed. Treatment may include drugs to block the action of excess aldosterone and drugs to control blood pressure (see Antihypertensive drugs).

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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