Scientists have discovered a new cause of high blood pressure which could lead to better ways of managing the disorder. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often goes unnoticed but if left untreated can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, it is known that in up to 10 per cent of hypertensive patients the overproduction of the adrenal hormone aldosterone – a condition known as primary aldosteronism or Conn syndrome – is the cause of disease.
Researchers, including those from University of Birmingham in the UK, found that a large number of patients with Conn syndrome do not only overproduce aldosterone but also the stress hormone cortisol. Scientists have decided to name this new cause of hypertension – the combined overproduction of aldosterone and cortisol – as Connshing syndrome.
At present, many Conn syndrome patients are treated with drugs that are directed against the adverse effects of aldosterone. However, this leaves the cortisol excess untreated, researchers 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,” said Wiebke Arlt of University of Birmingham.
“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,” Arlt said.
“These findings are very likely to change clinical practise,” said Katharina Lang from University of Birmingham. “Patients will now need to undergo more detailed assessment to clarify whether they suffer from Conn or Connshing syndrome,” Lang said. The study was published in the journal JCI Insight.