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What Is Hyperparathyroidism? Symptoms & Causes
General Surgery

What Is Hyperparathyroidism? Symptoms & Causes

What Is Hyperparathyroidism? Symptoms & Causes Sep 30, 2023

Symptoms & Causes

The thyroid is the small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck and possibly ranks as the most important gland and a vital part of the endocrine system. Often the most misunderstood and mismanaged gland, thyroid problems affect millions of people around the world. The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting all-important hormones that control major bodily functions right from how the human body uses energy, defining sleeping patterns to weight management.

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition where there is an overproduction of parathyroid hormone generated from the parathyroid glands (found in the anterior part of the lower neck). The parathyroid glands comprise of four small organs. They are about the size of a grain of rice and known to produce the all-essential parathyroid hormone. This hormone is responsible for regulating & maintaining optimum levels of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium within the blood and bone in order to ensure healthy bodily function.

Causes of Hyperparathyroidism

There are three primary types of hyperparathyroidism.

  1. Primary hyperparathyroidism – refers to a condition where the underlying issue originates from the parathyroid glands itself. In most cases, it’s caused by the enlargement or over activeness of the parathyroid glands.
  2. Secondary hyperparathyroidism – can refer to the presence of another disease in the body which results in the overproduction of parathyroid hormone. For instance, calcium of Vitamin D deficiency can result in secondary hyperparathyroidism.
  3. Tertiary hyperparathyroidism – if secondary hyperparathyroidism is left untreated, the glands will continue to over-produce parathyroid hormone thus causing an intense spike in the calcium levels in the body. This condition is often prevalent in individuals suffering from kidney diseases such as chronic kidney failure.

It must, however, be mentioned that the term hyperparathyroidism is usually associated with primary hyperparathyroidism. Furthermore, according to studies, it’s also been reported that it’s far more common in women (2-3 times) as compared to men and are known to predominantly occur between the ages of 50-60 years.

Symptoms

Hyperparathyroidism by itself showcases symptoms which are seen in hypercalcemia. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Back & Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weak bones that are prone to getting fractured more easily — Osteoporosis
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea leading to loss of consciousness
  • Muscle pain & weakness
  • Depression
  • Loss of height
  • Personality changes
  • Curving of the spine
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Dementia
  • Stupor and possibly coma
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Itching of the skin
  • Blurred vision (because of cataracts)
  • Arrhythmia
  • Bone pain or tenderness

Diagnosis

In case an individual experienced any of the above-mentioned symptoms, particularly if they are recent, it’s highly recommended that he/she visit their physician right away. Here are some of the ways diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism is done.

  • Blood tests to check if the calcium levels in the blood are elevated and to analyze the level of parathyroid hormone present in the blood.
  • Urine tests to measure the level of calcium in the blood.
  • X-rays of bone structures to check for any skeletal damage.
  • Abdominal imaging through an ultrasound scan to examine if there’s any calcification or stones present in the kidney, ureters, or bladder.
  • Sestamibi parathyroid scan – in certain cases

Treatment

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism is entirely dependent upon the severity and cause of the condition. More often than not especially in mild cases, there might be no need for treatment and close monitoring is recommended. In cases where the calcium levels have gone out of control, here are some of the treatment alternatives recommended.

  • Surgery to take out the affected hyperactive parathyroid glands that are overproducing the hormone. This is known to cure 95 percent of all cases.
  • Medications such as Cinacalcet – used to reduce the levels of calcium and bisphosphonates –for improving bone density.

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