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High altitude sickness. Is acute cortisol deficiency involved in its pathophysiology?

Authors
  • Panesar, Nirmal S
Type
Published Article
Journal
Medical Hypotheses
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2004
Volume
63
Issue
3
Pages
507–510
Identifiers
PMID: 15288378
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

High altitude illness (HAI) affects 42% of individuals climbing above 3000 m. The pathophysiology of HAI, including water retention remains unclear. Although decreased nitric oxide (NO) production is implicated in the pathophysiology, a recent study reported increased NO in breathes of high altitude inhabitants, apparently produced to combat the high altitude hypoxia. NO binds heme generally and impairs cytochrome P450 steroidogenic enzymes. A consequence of increased NO production may be decreased steroidogenesis. An acute cortisol deficiency may thus be the reason for water retention and oedema, and explains why dexamethasone is effective in treating some aspects of HAI.

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