Most people know that calcium is an integral part of their bones, the hard material that gives strength to their skeleton. These seemingly solid components of your body are, however, in constant renewal.
Calcium from your bones is also a reservoir for serum calcium in your bloodstream. This level is carefully controlled by parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is produced and released by four pea-sized parathyroid glands. These glands sit behind the two wings of the thyroid gland in your throat.
Parathyroid disorders usually indicate problems with the level of serum calcium. Left untreated, these issues can lead to conditions such as kidney stones or osteoporosis. As specialists with parathyroid and thyroid diseases, the team at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates are the physicians you want in your corner to diagnose and treat your parathyroid issues.
Types of parathyroid disease
As with other hormone-producing glands, parathyroid disorders are typically classed as overproducing or under-producing. Respectively, these are called hyperparathyroidism and hypoparathyroidism. Each condition has different effects on a patient.
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism
The most common parathyroid disorder, hyperparathyroidism happens when one or more of the glands overproduce PTH. The most common reason for this is benign tumors. Mild forms of hyperparathyroidism may demonstrate no symptoms at all. When minor symptoms occur, they include:
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Joint aches and pains
- Tiredness and an increased need for sleep
- Mood changes including depression
When hyperthyroidism is more severe, you may notice:
- Appetite loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Cognitive impairment such as confusion and memory issues
Hypercalcemia is the blood condition triggered by hyperparathyroidism. When it becomes chronic, it can contribute to osteoporosis, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The risks of hypoparathyroidism
Hypoparathyroidism is less common. It’s usually caused by surgery or other damage to the glands, though autoimmune system attacks can be responsible too.
Hypoparathyroidism doesn’t typically cause symptoms, but it does increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease, pernicious anemia, and cataracts. You may also be at risk of developing Addison’s disease, but only if your condition is caused by immune system problems.
Though it’s extremely rare, parathyroid cancer can cause hyperparathyroidism, which is often a bigger health threat than the cancer itself. When parathyroid cancer happens, it usually appears in patients in their 50s. Once treated, it frequently reappears in the same location, unless calcium levels in the blood are carefully controlled.
Diagnosing parathyroid disorders
Blood tests to check calcium and PTH levels are typically the earliest diagnostic step. After a parathyroid disorder is confirmed, testing may continue to determine if any damage has occurred to your body.
Most of these tests are types of common diagnostic imaging, including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Bone densitometry uses low-dose ionizing radiation to determine the extent of osteoporosis. In some cases, you may have further bloodwork to determine vitamin D levels.
Contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates by calling the most convenient office in Lawrence or Ottawa. As with many health conditions, early detection leads to better outcomes for your health. Book your appointment today.