Definition

What is hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition that occurs when the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized endocrine glands located in your neck, near or attached to the back of your thyroid. Endocrine glands secrete hormones necessary for the normal functioning of the body. Despite having similar names and being adjacent in your neck, the parathyroid glands and the thyroid are very different organs. PTH helps you to regulate the levels of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus in your bones and blood. Some people with this condition don’t experience any symptoms and don’t require treatment. Others have mild or severe symptoms that might need surgery.

How common is hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is not an uncommon disorder. It is more common in women, and in the older population its incidence can be as high as 1 in 1000.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism?

Depending on your type of hyperparathyroidism, signs and symptoms are able to vary from mild to severe.

Primary hyperparathyroidism

Some patients don’t experience any signs and symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they can range from mild to severe. Milder symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Body aches

More severe symptoms can include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Kidney stones

Secondary hyperparathyroidism

With this type, you may have skeletal abnormalities, such as fractures, swollen joints, and bone deformities. Other signs and symptoms depend on the underlying cause, such as chronic kidney failure or severe vitamin D deficiency. 

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes hyperparathyroidism?

In hyperparathyroidism, one or more of your parathyroid glands becomes overactive and makes excess PTH. This could be due to a tumor, gland enlargement, or other structural problems of the parathyroid glands.

When your calcium levels are too low, your parathyroid glands respond by increasing the production of PTH. This causes your kidneys and intestines to absorb a larger amount of calcium. It also removes more calcium from your bones. PTH production returns to normal when your calcium level goes up again.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hyperparathyroidism?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Are a woman who has gone through menopause
  • Have had prolonged, severe calcium or vitamin D deficiency
  • Have a rare, inherited disorder, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I, which usually affects multiple glands
  • Have had radiation treatment for cancer that has exposed your neck to radiation
  • Have taken lithium, a drug most often used to treat bipolar disorder

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hyperparathyroidism diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some common tests may include:

Blood Tests

Additional blood tests can help your primary care provider make a more accurate diagnosis. Your primary care provider will check your blood for high PTH levels, high alkaline phosphatase levels, and low levels of phosphorus.

Urine Tests

A urine test can help your primary care provider determine how severe your condition is and whether kidney problems are the cause. Your primary care provider will check your urine to see how much calcium it contains.

Kidney Tests

Your primary care provider might take X-rays of your abdomen to check for kidney abnormalities.

How is hyperparathyroidism treated?

Primary Hyperparathyroidism

You may not require treatment if your kidneys are working fine, if your calcium levels are only slightly high, or if your bone density is normal. In this case, your primary care provider might monitor your condition once a year and check your blood-calcium levels twice a year.

Your primary care provider will also recommend watching how much calcium and vitamin D you get in your diet. You will also need to drink plenty of water to reduce your risk of kidney stones. You should get regular exercise to strengthen your bones.

If treatment is necessary, surgery is the commonly used treatment. Surgical procedures involve removing enlarged parathyroid glands or tumors on the glands. Complications are rare and include damaged vocal cord nerves and long-term, low levels of calcium.Hormone replacement therapy can help bones hold on to calcium. This therapy can treat postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, although there are risks involved with prolonged use. These include an increased risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Secondary Hyperparathyroidism

Treatment involves bringing your PTH level back to normal by treating the underlying cause. Methods of treatment include taking prescription vitamin D for severe deficiencies and calcium and vitamin D for chronic kidney failure. You might also need medication and dialysis if you have chronic kidney failure.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hyperparathyroidism?

You can reduce your risk by following these useful ways:

  • Monitor how much calcium and vitamin D you get in your diet
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke regularly
  • Avoid calcium-raising drugs

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 18, 2017 | Last Modified: July 18, 2017

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