What is hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia is a condition in which there are lower-than-average levels of calcium in the liquid part of the blood, or the plasma.
How common is hypocalcemia?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of hypocalcemia?
Some people don’t have any symptoms or signs of hypocalcemia. As it affects the nervous system, babies with the condition may twitch or tremor. Adults who do have symptoms may experience:
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle spasms
- Paresthesias, or feelings of pins and needles, in the extremities
- Changes in mood, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability
- Memory issues
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Papilledema, or swelling of the optic disc
The symptoms of severe hypocalcemia are:
- Congestive heart failure
- Laryngospasms, or seizures of the voice box
The long-term symptoms of hypocalcemia include:
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Kidney stones or other calcium deposits in the body
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes hypocalcemia?
The most common cause of hypocalcemia is hypoparathyroidism, which occurs when the body secretes a less-than-average amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Low PTH levels lead to low calcium levels in your body. Hypoparathyroidism can be inherited, or it can be the result of surgical removal of the thyroid gland or cancer of the head and neck.
Other causes of hypocalcemia include:
- Not enough calcium or vitamin d in your diet
- Some medications, such as phenytoin (dilantin), phenobarbital, and rifampin
- Intense exercise
- Irregular magnesium or phosphate levels
- Kidney disease
- Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal disorders that prevent your body from absorbing calcium properly
- A phosphate or calcium infusion
- Cancer that’s spreading
- Diabetes in the mother, in the case of infants
What increases my risk for hypocalcemia?
People with a vitamin D or magnesium deficiency are at risk of hypocalcemia. Other risk factors include:
- A history of gastrointestinal disorders
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Anxiety disorders
Newborn babies are at risk because their bodies aren’t fully developed. This is especially true for children born to diabetic mothers.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hypocalcemia diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosis is a blood test to determine your calcium levels. Your doctor may also use mental and physical exams to test for signs of hypocalcemia. A physical exam may include a study of your:
A mental exam may include tests for:
Your doctor may also test for Chvostek’s and Trousseau’s signs, which are both linked to hypocalcemia. Chvostek’s sign is a twitching response when a set of facial nerves is tapped. Trousseau’s sign is a spasm in the hands or feet that comes from ischemia, or a restriction in blood supply to tissues. Twitching or spasms are considered positive responses to these tests and suggest neuromuscular excitability due to hypocalcemia.
How is hypocalcemia treated?
Some cases of hypocalcemia go away without treatment. Some cases of hypocalcemia are severe and can even be life-threatening. If you have an acute case, your doctor will most likely give you calcium through your vein, or intravenously.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypocalcemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hypocalcemia:
Many hypocalcemia cases are easily treated with a dietary change. Taking calcium, vitamin D, or magnesium supplements, or eating foods with these can help treat it.
Spending time in the sun will increase your vitamin D levels. The amount of sun needed is different for everyone. Be sure to use sunscreen for protection if you’re in the sun for a long time. Your doctor may recommend a calcium-rich diet plan to help treat it as well.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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