As a result, excess aldosterone is produced, which causes salt retention in the body, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. These patients are usually resistant to treatment with hypertension medications, but a “cure” is now possible. A new 10-minute CT scan could reveal tiny nodules in a hormonal gland, allowing practitioners to identify and remove them.
Created by Queen Mary University of London (QMU), Barts Hospital and Cambridge University Hospital, the new scan is accurate, fast and painless.
Morris Brown, professor of endocrine hypertension at QMU and co-author of the study, commented on the technological progress.
“These aldosterone-producing nodules are very small and easy to miss on conventional CT scans,” he said.
“When they glow within minutes of our injection, they show up as an obvious cause of hypertension, which can often be treated later.
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“Until now, 99 percent have never been diagnosed due to the complexity and unavailability of tests. I hope this changes soon.”
For the study, doctors gave 128 patients, all of whom had hypertension caused by the steroid hormone aldosterone, a new scan.
In two-thirds of patients, scans showed that high levels of aldosterone were being secreted by a benign nodule in one of the adrenal glands.
Nodules can be removed with a very short-acting dose of radioactive metomidate that only adheres to the aldosterone-producing nodule.
QMU Professor of Clinical Endocrinology William Drake said: “This study is the result of many years of hard work and collaboration between centers across the UK.”
In the journal Nature Medicine, Professor Drake noted: “The future of research in this area is in very good hands.”
Dr. Judith Marchin confirmed that the adrenal glands are responsible for the production of aldosterone, which “plays an active role in raising blood pressure.”
The adrenal glands maintain the balance of sodium, potassium and water in the blood.
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“Hyperaldosteronism is an endocrine disorder in which one or both of your adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone aldosterone,” Dr. Marchin confirmed.
The main symptom of hyperaldosteronism is high blood pressure, which may be accompanied by:
- vision problems
- Chest pain
The other main symptom of hyperaldosteronism is hypokalemia, which refers to low levels of potassium in the blood.
Hypokalemia can lead to: fatigue, muscle cramps, increased thirst and urination, muscle weakness and palpitations.
If you are concerned that you may have hyperaldosteronism, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor.
A simple blood test can check aldosterone and renin levels, Dr. Marcin said.
The latter, renin, is an enzyme secreted by the kidneys that works in conjunction with aldosterone to help balance blood pressure.
People with hyperaldosteronism usually have low renin levels and high aldosterone levels.