Research led by scientists at the University of Birmingham has revealed a new cause of high blood pressure which could lead to major changes in managing the disease.
Studies estimate that one in four adults suffer from hypertension, but most patients have no identifiable cause for the condition.
However, it is known that in up to 10% of hypertensive patients the overproduction of the adrenal hormone aldosterone — a condition known as primary aldosteronism or Conn syndrome — is the cause of disease.
Now the University of Birmingham-led study has, for the first time, made the important discovery that a large number of patients with Conn syndrome do not only overproduce aldosterone but also the stress hormone cortisol.
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Professor Wiebke Arlt, Director of the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research (IMSR) at the University of Birmingham, said: “Our findings show that the adrenal glands of many patients with Conn syndrome also produce too much cortisol, which finally explains puzzling results of previous studies in Conn patients.
“These previous studies had found increased rates of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and depression in Conn patients — problems typically caused by overproduction of cortisol, also termed Cushing syndrome, and not by too much aldosterone.”