Most often, the cause of hypertension in patients goes unidentified, but the condition puts them in a situation that requires life-long treatment with drugs. Researchers have now discovered the cause of a common type of hypertension and a way to cure it.

According to the latest study, gene mutation in a tiny nodule in the adrenal gland is the cause of a type of hypertension seen in one out of every 20 cases.

The nodule produces aldosterone, a hormone that regulates the balance of water and salts in the kidney by keeping sodium in and releasing potassium from the body. The gene variation disrupts a protein called CADM1, which prevents signaling to cease the production of aldosterone. Too much of aldosterone leads to high blood pressure.

The gene mutation also causes variable release of aldosterone throughout the day, making the diagnosis difficult for most patients.

Less than 1% of people with hypertension caused by aldosterone are identified, as most often aldosterone is not checked in patients.

According to the researchers, aldosterone should be checked using a 24-hour urine test rather than one-off blood measurements as the production of the hormone varies throughout the day.

Previous studies conducted by the same research group indicated the cause of high blood pressure in 5-10% of patients is the gene mutation in the adrenal glands and excessive production of aldosterone.

Researchers also observed that patients with excessive aldosterone levels in the blood did not positively respond to common drugs used for hypertension and were at an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The latest study suggests that removing the adrenal glands through unilateral adrenalectomy can be an effective treatment for the condition. After unilateral adrenalectomy, patients may not require any treatment in the subsequent years.

Researchers are also investigating the possibility of a cure without surgical removal of the entire gland.

"Because the aldosterone nodules in this study were so small, we are now investigating whether momentary cauterization of the nodule is an alternative to surgical removal of the whole adrenal gland," said Morris Brown, co-senior author of the study.

A nurse examines a woman who has hypertension. rawpixel/Pixabay