Conn's syndrome causes high blood pressure (hypertension) in people who are usually relatively young or between about the ages of 30 and 50. It has alternate names such as hyperaldosteronism, suggesting that it is very different from other conditions causing hypertension. Principally, the second name suggests cause of Conn's syndrome; it tends to be due to high amounts of aldosterone. Knowing this and accurately diagnosing the disease can be very important because it means there’s some likelihood of curing the disease and ending the hypertensive state.
As stated, the cause of Conn's syndrome is high aldosterone levels, and this hormone is produced in the endocrine system by the adrenal glands. There are two possible ways that aldosterone levels dramatically increase. One of these occurs if an adrenal gland has a tumor on it, which is almost always non-cancerous. Another potential reason aldosterone levels would go up is if the two adrenal glands start to increase in size or develop hyperplasia.
On the surface, the main symptom of Conn's syndrome is high blood pressure. Another potential symptom is excessive urination due to poor action of the kidneys. This sign could take a while to develop and isn’t always present at first.
In order to really determine that hyperaldosteronism is present, doctors would have to look for it via blood tests. They may look for general things like elevated calcium levels, but the more important test may be to determine levels of aldosterone. This, plus low readings of another hormone called renin, may make it easier to determine that hypertension is a symptom of Conn's syndrome.
This indication suggests further examination of the adrenal glands to confirm diagnosis. If a tumor is found, one possibility for cure is surgical removal of a gland, since this could normalize aldosterone levels. When adrenal hyperplasia is indicated, cure is not as straightforward and people may need medical follow-up and management for life. Some medicines that tend to be used include spironolactone, which helps to block the action of aldosterone so blood pressure levels can decrease. Blood pressure medicines of other types might be needed too, and careful watch of the kidneys could be an important part of treatment.
In the best case scenario, the person with Conn's syndrome does have a tumor, which is removed, and is thus cured of hypertension. Worst cases include failure to diagnose or difficulty treating due to incurable adrenal hyperplasia. There’s also debate on the degree of rarity this disease represents. Some believe that about 10-20% of all hypertension cases are truly Conn’s. Other medical professionals think Conn's syndrome is extremely rare and they may not frequently test for what could be a potentially curable illness.