RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
The Expanding Spectrum of Primary Aldosteronism: Implications for Diagnosis, Pathogenesis, and Treatment.
Primary aldosteronism is characterized by aldosterone secretion that is independent of renin and angiotensin II and sodium status. The deleterious effects of primary aldosteronism are mediated by excessive activation of the mineralocorticoid receptor that results in the well-known consequences of volume expansion, hypertension, hypokalemia, and metabolic alkalosis, but it also increases the risk for cardiovascular and kidney disease, as well as death. For decades, the approaches to defining, diagnosing, and treating primary aldosteronism have been relatively constant and generally focused on detecting and treating the more severe presentations of the disease. However, emerging evidence suggests that the prevalence of primary aldosteronism is much greater than previously recognized, and that milder and nonclassical forms of renin-independent aldosterone secretion that impart heightened cardiovascular risk may be common. Public health efforts to prevent aldosterone-mediated end-organ disease will require improved capabilities to diagnose all forms of primary aldosteronism while optimizing the treatment approaches such that the excess risk for cardiovascular and kidney disease is adequately mitigated. In this review, we present a physiologic approach to considering the diagnosis, pathogenesis, and treatment of primary aldosteronism. We review evidence suggesting that primary aldosteronism manifests across a wide spectrum of severity, ranging from mild to overt, that correlates with cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, we review emerging evidence from genetic studies that begin to provide a theoretical explanation for the pathogenesis of primary aldosteronism and a link to its phenotypic severity spectrum and prevalence. Finally, we review human studies that provide insights into the optimal approach toward the treatment of primary aldosteronism.
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