Hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH).
The parathyroid glands are small endocrine glands located in the neck, close to the thyroid gland. PTH regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate (minerals necessary for strong bones and teeth) in the body, by controlling how much calcium is taken from bones, absorbed in the intestines, and lost in urine. When too much parathyroid hormone is secreted, levels of calcium in the blood and urine rise, and bones may lose calcium, leading to osteoporosis.
Most patients with primary hyperparathyroidism do not have any symptoms. Doctors often diagnose the condition through routine blood tests that show high levels of calcium. When symptoms do occur, they are generally due to continuously high levels of calcium in the blood and loss of calcium from bones.
Symptoms may include:
Hyperparathyroidism may develop as a result of several conditions, including:
Risk factors for hyperparathyroidism include:
Hyperparathyroidism is diagnosed through blood tests that show high levels of calcium and PTH. In most cases, health care providers discover primary hyperparathyroidism from a routine blood test.
If primary hyperparathyroidism is suspected, the doctor will:
Your provider may also order the following tests:
There is no known way to prevent primary hyperparathyroidism. However, people who are at risk should avoid dehydration. They should also make sure they're getting adequate vitamin D and calcium in the diet.
You may not need immediate treatment if:
You will be monitored for blood calcium levels and bone density to watch for any changes in their condition.
However, surgery and drug therapy may be needed for primary hyperparathyroidism. If hyperparathyroidism is caused by another condition, additional drug treatment may be needed for that condition.
Your provider may prescribe the following medicines:
Surgery is the main treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism. One or more glands may be removed. This procedure is called parathyroidectomy.
Hyperparathyroidism should never be treated by alternative medicine alone. Some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies may support conventional treatment. Keep all of your health care providers informed about any CAM therapies you are considering using.
Do not take supplements without your provider's supervision. Following these nutritional tips may help your general health:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements, as indicated by your provider. Make sure all of your providers are aware of any nutritional or herbal supplements you are considering using and take only under a doctor's supervision as these may alter the calcium balance in your body:
The following herbs are sometimes used to support bone health, though thorough scientific studies are lacking. Talk to your provider before taking any herbs if you have hyperparathyroidism.
Although no studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies for hyperparathyroidism, homeopaths may consider the following remedies:
The outlook depends on the type of hyperparathyroidism. The prognosis is excellent for people who have:
Possible complications of hyperparathyroidism include:
Various cardiovascular conditions are also associated with hyperparathyroidism.
If you have surgery, your doctor will check your blood calcium levels for several months to be sure that the levels remain stable.
If you do not have surgery, your calcium levels will need to be checked over a longer period of time. Your checkups will also include a careful assessment of your bones and kidneys.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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