The human body contains four small parathyroid glands each the size of a grain of rice. They are located behind the thyroid, and their function is to regulate calcium levels throughout the body, as calcium is the most important element in our body. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when one or more of the parathyroid glands produces too much parathyroid hormone, causing the bones to release calcium and boosting the levels of calcium in the bloodstream. This can result in osteoporosis, kidney stones and cardiovascular disease. Two types of this condition exist, primary and secondary hyperparathyroidism. In the primary condition, an enlargement of one or more of the glands results in the production of excessive hormone. In the secondary type, the condition is caused by another disease that has reduced blood calcium levels and, overtime, this results in hyperparathyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism include:
- Bone or joint pain
- Fragile bones in spine/limbs
- Kidney stones
- Excessive urine
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea/loss of appetite
Hyperparathyroidism is most often diagnosed from routine bloodwork, but can also be indicated through bone density tests, urine tests, X-ray, Ultrasound and CT scans. In cases of mild hyperparathyroidism where the patient has no symptoms aside from a slightly elevated blood calcium level, the advice might be watchful waiting. This implies that your physician will regularly monitor your blood calcium levels, along with kidney function, blood pressure and bone density. Lifestyle modifications may also be recommended, including: getting more exercise, drinking an increased amount of water and avoiding certain medications, including lithium and thiazide diuretics.
If your hyperparathyroidism is more severe, surgery to remove the enlarged gland or glands may be recommended. Surgery is extremely effective for this condition, with an approximate cure rate of 95%. Around six weeks post-surgery, your doctor will check your calcium and PTH levels and continue to do so annually. Annual bone density tests may also be recommended.Previous Page Last Review Date: October 21, 2020