Adrenal gland tumors, coarctation of aorta and metabolic syndrome

Adrenal gland tumors

Two rare types of tumors of the adrenal glands are less common, secondary causes of hypertension. The adrenal glands sit right on top of the kidneys. Both of these tumors produce excessive amounts of adrenal hormones that cause high blood pressure. These tumors can be diagnosed from blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies of the adrenal glands. Surgery is often required to remove these tumors or the adrenal gland (adrenalectomy), which usually relieves the hypertension.

One of the types of adrenal tumors causes a condition that is called primary hyperaldosteronism because the tumor produces excessive amounts of the hormone aldosterone. In addition to the hypertension, this condition causes the loss of excessive amounts of potassium from the body into the urine, which results in a low level of potassium in the blood. Hyperaldosteronism is generally first suspected in a person with hypertension when low potassium is also found in the blood. (Also, certain rare genetic disorders affecting the hormones of the adrenal gland can cause secondary hypertension.)

The other type of adrenal tumor that can cause secondary hypertension is called a pheochromocytoma This tumor produces excessive catecholamines, which include several adrenaline-related hormones. The diagnosis of a pheochromocytoma is suspected in individuals who have sudden and recurrent episodes of hypertension that are associated with flushing of the skin, rapid heart beating (palpitations), and sweating, in addition to the symptoms associated with high blood pressure.


Coarctation of the aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a rare hereditary disorder that is one of the most common causes of hypertension in children. This condition is characterized by a narrowing of a segment of the aorta, the main large artery coming from the heart. The aorta delivers blood to the arteries that supply all of the body's organs, including the kidneys.

The narrowed segment (coarctation) of the aorta generally occurs above the renal arteries, which causes a reduced blood flow to the kidneys. This lack of blood to the kidneys prompts the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormonal system to elevate the blood pressure. Treatment of the coarctation is usually the surgical correction of the narrowed segment of the aorta. Sometimes, balloon angioplasty (as described above for renal artery stenosis) can be used to widen (dilate) the coarctation of the aorta.

The metabolic syndrome and obesity

Genetic factors play a role in the constellation of findings that make up the "metabolic syndrome." Individuals with the metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance and a tendency to have type 2 diabetes mellitus (non-insulin-dependent diabetes). 

Obesity, especially associated with a marked increase in abdominal girth, leads to high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), elevated blood lipids (fats), vascular inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (abnormal reactivity of the blood vessels), and hypertension all leading to premature atherosclerotic vascular disease. The American Obesity Association states the risk of developing hypertension is five to six times greater in obese Americans, age 20 to 45, compared to non-obese individuals of the same age. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2005 that waist size was a better predictor of a person's blood pressure than body mass index (BMI). Men should strive for a waist size of 35 inches or under and women 33 inches or under. The epidemic of obesity in the United States contributes to hypertension in children, adolescents, and adults. 

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