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Hyperparathyroidism: Symptoms, causes and treatment

  • Posted on- Aug 27, 2015
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Hyperparathyroidism is a medical condition where overactivity of one or more of the body's four parathyroid glands leads to excess of parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream. The parathyroid glands are responsible for parathyroid hormone which maintains a proper balance of calcium in the bloodstream and in tissues that depend on calcium for proper functioning.

There are two types of hyperparathyroidism, primary and secondary. In primary hyperparathyroidism, an enlargement of one or more of the parathyroid glands leads to excess production of the hormone, resulting in increased levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause several health conditions. Secondary hyperparathyroidism occurs as a result of another disease that primarily causes low levels of calcium in the body.

Symptoms associated with Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is usually diagnosed before any symptoms of the disorder are visible. When symptoms appear, they're the result of dysfunction in other organs or tissues because of high calcium levels in the blood and urine or very less calcium in bones.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may be so gentle or severe that they don't seem at all related to parathyroid function. Some of the common symptoms include:

Causes of hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is the result of increase in production of parathyroid hormone. The disorder may occur because of a problem with the parathyroid glands themselves or because of an underlying medical condition that affects the glands' function.

Primary hyperparathyroidism
When there is a problem with one of the four parathyroid glands, it leads to primary hyperparathyroidism:
  • A benign growth on a gland is the most common cause
  • Enlargement of two or more parathyroid glands accounts for most other cases
  • A malignant tumor is an uncommon cause of primary hyperparathyroidism

Secondary hyperparathyroidism
Secondary hyperparathyroidism occurs due to another health condition that lessens calcium levels. Therefore, your parathyroid glands work overtime to compensate for the loss of calcium. Reasons behind secondary hyperparathyroidism include:
  • When your body is unable to absorb the calcium from your diet, it may lead to calcium deficiency.
  • Your body’s calcium levels may drop when you don’t get enough vitamin D because of less exposure to sunlight.
  • When your kidneys malfunction, they may not be able to use vitamin D properly. Hence, it leads to drop in calcium levels.

Available treatments for hyperparathyroidism

  • Surgery: Surgery is the most common form of treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism and has a high success rate. A surgeon will remove only those glands that have a tumor. If all four glands are affected, a surgeon will likely remove only three glands and a portion of the fourth, leaving some functioning parathyroid tissue.
  • Calcimimetic medicine: It is a drug that imitates calcium circulating in the blood. The drug prompts the parathyroid glands into releasing less parathyroid hormone. Some doctors prescribe Calcimimetics when surgery has given a negative response.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: For women who have signs of osteoporosis or who have undergone menopause, hormone replacement therapy is the perfect option. But this treatment doesn't address the main problem associated with the parathyroid glands.
  • Bisphosphonates: Bisphosphonates also prevent the loss of calcium from bones and may reduce osteoporosis caused by hyperparathyroidism.

It's important to get an accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment for hyperparathyroidism because if left unattended, it can lead to serious complications.