Parathyroid Disease



Blood calcium levels play a very important role in many bodily functions. These include bone building, liver function, heart and muscle strength and even how blood clots. The parathyroid gland sits next to the thyroid gland in the neck. They continuously monitor your blood calcium level, and produce parathyroid hormone (PTH) to correct and maintain a proper calcium level. People typically have four parathyroid glands. Health problems may arise when there is an excess or lack of parathyroid hormone.

Hyperparathyroidism is an excess of PTH. It is most commonly due to one or more parathyroid glands being overactive, producing too much PTH. This can cause a rise in blood calcium levels. This in turn may result in a higher risk of weakness, kidney stones, osteoporosis, increased urination, dehydration, and excess thirst. There are different kinds of hyperparathyroidism. Primary hyperparathyroidism can be due to a parathyroid gland misbehaving by itself, called “primary hyperparathyroidism.” “Secondary hyperparathyroidism” arises when other problems trigger a hyperparathyroid problem. For example a lack of vitamin D impairs the ability of the intestines to absorb calcium. This in turn upsets the parathyroids into being hyperactive, as these glands try to correct what they believe is a low calcium problem. Another kind of hyperparathyroidism occurs when there is a kidney failure, causing a lack of a special kind of vitamin D that is produced by the kidney. This also looks like a lack of calcium to the parathyroid glands, and they become hyperactive.

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism depends on which kind of hyperparathyroidism is present. When the problem originates from primary hyperparathyroidism, the treatment is surgery to remove the overactive parathyroids causing the problem. Following parathyroid surgery, the blood calcium may drop below normal, requiring supplemental calcium and vitamin D. When the cause is secondary hyperparathyroidism due to low vitamin D, replacement vitamin D will correct the parathyroid and calcium imbalance. When the hyperparathyroidism is due to kidney disease, treatment will depend on the kidney status, and may involve medicines or surgery.


Hypoparathyroidism is much less common, and involves a lack of parathyroid hormone. This may arise congenitally, and one is born lacking adequate parathyroid gland function. It may also occur if one has had a complete surgical removal of all the parathyroids. Hypoparathyroidism results in a low blood calcium, causing symptoms like muscle spasms, cramps, tingling to the lips or hands or irregular heart rhythm.