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What are Mineralocorticoids?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Mineralocorticoids are hormones produced by the adrenal cortex, the core of the adrenal glands. These hormones are critical to the healthy function of the body, and a radical increase or decrease in mineralocorticoids can cause severe health problems or death if it is not addressed. Levels of these hormones in the body can be determined with a blood test. Some conditions which involve these hormones include: Addison's Disease, Cushing's Syndrome, and Conn's Syndrome.

These hormones are among the larger family of steroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating the levels of electrolytes in the body. They determine when the body should secrete or conserve electrolytes such as salt or sodium, and in the process, the hormones also regulate urination and the amount of fluid in the body. Given that maintaining the right balance of electrolytes is very important, one can see the need for correct levels of mineralocorticoids such as aldosterone in the body.

The electrolyte balance in the body plays a role in a number of things, from cellular function to blood pressure. Imbalances can cause a chain reaction of events which can spiral out of control unless the imbalance is corrected. Permanent damages can also be caused by an excess or deficiency which is allowed to persist for prolonged periods. These hormones can swing into action in these situations, with production being stimulated by the body as it sends signals indicating that there is a problem. If production is interrupted for some reason, the body's major organs will start to fail.

In someone with a mineralocorticoid deficiency, such as that caused by Addison's Disease, the body will be unable to regulate levels of electrolytes properly. The resulting imbalance can cause organ failure, vomiting, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and similar syndromes. The condition is treated by administering hormones to compensate for the body's inability to produce the right amount.

When there are too many mineralocorticoids in the blood, the patient can experience weight gain, bruising, infertility, hirsutism, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and a range of other issues. If the increase in levels is caused by the use of mineralocorticoids to treat a medical condition, the dosages will be reduced. If the issue is the result of problems with the adrenal glands, it may be necessary to remove the glands, which means that the patient will need to take supplementary hormones for life to compensate for the steroids not being produced by the body.

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Mary McMahon
By 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
By serenesurface — On Aug 13, 2012

My aunt has Conn's syndrome which is also related to mineralocorticoids. I don't know all the details of her condition but I do know that she has symptoms like high blood pressure and low calcium and potassium.

She has to take minerolocorticoid hormones (not sure which one) to keep her mineral levels normal. She goes for check ups often to have blood drawn for tests. Sometimes her medication is too much and hormones are elevated so she has to lower her dose. Sometimes her levels fall again and she has to increase the dose.

It's pretty hard for her but she's still really grateful that she can take the hormones in tablet form. Before she was diagnosed, the symptoms of the disorder were really taking a toll on her.

By bluedolphin — On Aug 13, 2012

@literally45-- Yes, there are alternative treatments when there are too many mineralocorticoids being produced.

For example, in syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, there are too many mineralocorticoids like the name suggests. As far as I know, one way to treat this syndrome is through glucocorticoid supplementation. This is also a hormone similar to mineralocorticoids but somehow it's able to suppress it too.

I agree that most hormones function similarly in the body. So just as the removal of the thyroid gland would be the last option for treating thyroid problems, removal of the adrenal glands would be the last option with mineralocorticoid issues too.

By literally45 — On Aug 12, 2012

Mineralocorticoids sound really similar to how some of the other hormones work. I know a lot about thyroid and pituitary hormones for example because I suffer from hypothyroidism. Just like with mineralocorticoids, these hormones serve specific functions. And if they're too high or low in numbers, they cause all sorts of problems that become more serious over time.

So how are mineralocorticoids related adrenal disorders treated aside from treatment with synthetic hormones?

For example if someone has problems with their aldosterone hormones and suffers from too much production of the hormone, what is the first line of treatment? They don't immediately remove the glands right?

Aren't there ways to suppress mineralocorticoid production without removing the glands that produce them?

By anon72317 — On Mar 22, 2010

what is the stimulus for the secretion and the zone of the cortex?

By anon40936 — On Aug 11, 2009

Fantastic and sweet.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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