New gene variants identified that cause hypertension in pregnant women

Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects 30% of adults, who may then need long-term treatment to help prevent strokes and heart attacks.

For one in 10 of these patients, their hypertension is caused by a tiny benign nodule in one of the adrenals. These are glands near the kidneys that produce steroid hormones, including aldosterone that stimulates the kidneys to retain salt and hence increase blood pressure.

The research team found a number of gene variants which cause the production of high levels of aldosterone from small adrenal nodules, including a unique pair of new variants which always occur together. Patients in this group are mainly women, who present with sudden onset of high blood pressure and low blood potassium in the early months of a pregnancy.

Once the cause of the women’s hypertension was identified, they were able to complete a successful pregnancy and after birth had their adrenal nodule removed, curing their hypertension completely and meaning they could stop all their drugs.

This is an abridged version of the article first published on our website on 13 August 2021.

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