What is Hypoaldosteronism?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Hypoaldosteronism is a deficiency in aldosterone, a steroid hormone normally produced by the adrenal gland. In patients with hypoaldosteronism, production of other hormones in the adrenal gland may be normal, with just this hormone out of balance, depending on the cause. To treat this condition, a doctor needs to find out why the patient is experiencing a deficiency and develop an appropriate treatment plan to address the low aldosterone levels and their underlying cause. Patients can have hypoaldosteronism without obvious symptoms, especially in the early stages.

The body has two adrenal glands that when properly functioning release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.
The body has two adrenal glands that when properly functioning release hormones that help regulate metabolism, physical development and stress.

Aldosterone is involved in the process of regulating the balance of salt and potassium retained and excreted by the kidneys. A key sign of hypoaldosteronism is very high potassium levels. The patient may have hyporeninemic aldosteronism, where the production of an enzyme known as renin in the kidneys is lower than unusual, or the hyperreninemic form, where the kidneys continue producing this enzyme in normal concentrations. A doctor will determine which kind a patient has in the process of developing a diagnosis and determining the impact of the deficiency on kidney function.

Kidney failure and severe kidney disease are potential causes of hypoaldosteronism.
Kidney failure and severe kidney disease are potential causes of hypoaldosteronism.

One potential cause is a problem with the adrenal gland. Certain medications can also lead to hypoaldosteronism, including medications used to control blood pressure. Kidney failure and severe kidney disease are also potential causes. Patients with diabetes are at increased risk of hypoaldosteronism, especially if their condition is poorly controlled. Chronic disease in general can also make people more susceptible to complications like hypoaldosteronism as a result of stress on the metabolism.

Medications meant to control blood pressure may cause hypoaldosteronism.
Medications meant to control blood pressure may cause hypoaldosteronism.

A doctor can identify the deficiency by looking at concentrations of hormones in the blood and checking on other blood chemistry levels like sodium and potassium to collect more information potentially relevant to the diagnoses. Aldosterone therapy can be provided to bring levels of this hormone back to normal. This should stabilize the patient's potassium levels and may also help address blood pressure problems, as aldosterone is involved in the regulation of blood pressure.

The underlying cause also needs to be identified and treated, if possible. This may require changing medications to get the patient off a drug known to cause hypoaldosteronism, evaluating the patient for adrenal gland disease, or developing a new treatment plan for diabetes to better control and monitor the disease. If the cause is not treated, the patient will continue to experience hormone imbalances and can develop complications if the underlying disease is progressive in nature.

Aldosterone affects the movement of sodium, potassium and water through the kidney.
Aldosterone affects the movement of sodium, potassium and water through the kidney.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon322080

My aldorenin ratio was low but my kidney function was normal. What does this mean?

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