In literature Conn's syndrome is known as primary hyperaldosteronism. This means that the failed hormone production is in the organ, where the hormone is produced, in this case in the adrenal glands. The prefix hyper- means that hormone production is high, and unneeded for the body. The terminus -aldosteronism indicates that the hormone synthesis is disrupted. The adrenal gland is a pair organ located in close proximity to the kidney, is triangular and its size is 5 x 1.5 x 0.5 cm. Anatomically speaking they lie near the spine, at the level of the 11th rib. They consist of two functionally distinct parts, the cortex and medulla. Both cortex and medulla produce important hormones. The adrenal glands are essential organs involved in a complex system of hormonal regulation of our body. You can imagine the mediators, i.e. hormones, as letters, which distant organs use to communicate with each other. These "letters" are sent to the organs by blood. This ingenious system of our body guarantees that everything works as it should, that the "letter" - a hormone gets to the correct address and informs the correct addressee. Each organ has its exact location and a different "mailbox", where only the letters of the "right" size and shape fit. This ensures that the letter is received "in to good hands" - to the correct organ. If there is a failure in this hormonal communication this leads to various diseases, one of them is the above-mentioned Conn's syndrome.
Conn's syndrome and aldosterone
Conn's syndrome is caused by an excess of aldosterone. Aldosterone is produced in the adrenal cortex and its production is controlled by the kidneys. When the blood flow through the blood vessels of kidneys is low, they send a 'request' to the adrenal glands to increase the production of aldosterone. Aldosterone belongs to mineralocorticoids (prefix mineral - affecting management of minerals, particularly of sodium and potassium) and has an effect on blood pressure, renal blood flow and thus the production of urine and management of body water (keeps water in the body and keeps its sufficient volume) and the above mentioned minerals. Its abundance causes Conn's syndrome.
Frequently asked questions about Conn's syndrome
What is the cause of hyperaldosteronism, Conn's syndrome?
It is usually a benign tumor, a so-called adenoma, in the cortex of the adrenal gland, which is out of control and produces aldosterone uncontrollably. Another reason may be hyperplasia of the adrenal cortex or rarely a malignant tumor.
How does aldosterone influence our body?
It increases the amount of sodium in the body, sodium binds water, which leads to the increased amount of water in the body and this significantly increases blood pressure and swellings appear. It also stimulates the loss of potassium; potassium deficiency causes fatigue, malaise, weakness and loss of physical endurance. Potassium deficiency also affects intestinal muscle cells, which leads to constipation, ECG changes and in severe cases it can also cause cardiac arrest and death!!! Muscular twitches and cramps may also occur. On the contrary, its excess causes accumulation of sodium in the body, increasing blood pressure with various complications such as headaches or nosebleeds. Further it causes decreased levels of potassium, resulting in constipation and muscle weakness. These symptoms caused by the increased production of aldosterone can be collectively used for diagnosis of Conn's syndrome.
Diagnosis and treatment of Conn's syndrome
If you have the above mentioned symptoms, especially high blood pressure that does not respond to antihypertensive therapy, edema, fatigue, loss of physical energy, constipation and cramps, and/or you have a family history of Conn's syndrome and you suffer from these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The disease can be diagnosed by blood analysis and using ultrasound or other imaging methods. Treatment is surgical - removal of the tumor and treatment of complications with drugs. Conn's syndrome, if untreated, leads to death, therefore do not underestimate the mentioned symptoms.