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Defining Primary Aldosteronism

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According to the Hormone Foundation, hyperaldosteronism occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone. This hormone keeps sodium and potassium levels balanced in the body. But when there’s too much aldosterone, sodium (salt) builds up as well as the blood pressure. And as we all know, high blood pressure puts an individual at risk for quite a few other medical conditions, such as stroke, heart failure or even kidney failure.

When is hyperaldosteronism considered primary aldosteronism (PA)? This would be when the root cause of the aldosterone imbalance is the adrenal glands. When the root cause of this imbalance is related to something outside the adrenal glands, it’s called secondary aldosteronism.

Some of the main causes of PA are the overactivity of adrenal glands, a noncancerous growth (adenoma) in the adrenal gland, a genetic disorder (such as familial hyperaldosteronism) or even a cancerous tumor of the adrenal gland. Of which, the last two conditions are very rare.

It takes a doctor to actually diagnose PA by measuring your aldosterone levels. Renin levels will be measured as well. Renin is a protein that controls aldosterone production. So when PA occurs, renin is low and aldosterone is high. Additional tests will be ordered once and if PA is diagnosed. This is in order to rule out any noncancerous tumors or overactivity in either gland.

Treatment will alter with the situation presented. For instance, if both adrenal glands are overactive, the treatment given will consist of medication and lifestyle changes. A PA patient medical regimen will include a special diuretic or water pill and strict limitations on salt intake. In the case of a tumor being found, then surgery will be recommended to remove the tumorous adrenal gland. Medications may still be needed post surgery. Patients, as outlined by the Hormone Foundation, will be also be required to reduce sodium in their diet, lose weight (if needed), exercise regularly, limit alcohol and stop smoking.

This condition should be taken very seriously since high blood pressure can be life-threatening. Early detection, by the way of regular checkups, is a must. Once diagnosed, always stay with the recommended medical regimen and lifestyle changes.

Resources: The Mayo Clinic, The Hormone Foundation

Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer and poet. Please preview her poetry at:

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