Hyperparathyroidism

Definition

Hyperparathyroidism is when the body makes too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). The parathyroid glands make PTH which help to keep calcium levels in balance.

Hyperparathyroidism may be:

  • Primary—a benign tumor of the parathyroid gland that makes too much PTH (most common form)
  • Secondary—occurs in patients with long-standing kidney failure or a vitamin D deficiency
  • Tertiary—also occurs in patients with long-standing kidney failure and dialysis
Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands: Posterior (Back) View
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Causes

Primary hyperparathyroidism may be caused by:

  • Noncancerous tumor in the parathyroid gland—most common cause
  • Familial hyperparathyroidism
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)
  • Parathyroid cancer—rare

Secondary hyperparathyroidism may be caused by:

  • Vitamin D deficiency due to inadequate dietary intake, lack of sunlight exposure, or malabsorption condition like celiac disease
  • Kidney failure or other medical problems that make the body resistant to the action of the parathyroid hormone

Enlargement of the parathyroid gland is the main risk factor for tertiary hyperparathyroidism.

Risk Factors

Hyperparathyroidism is more common in women, especially after menopause . It is also more common in people older than 50 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia
  • Having specific genetic factors that increase your risk
  • Radiation therapy to the head or neck during childhood

Symptoms

The level of calcium in the blood will determine the symptoms. Symptoms commonly seen with primary hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Frequent and sometimes painful urination due to kidney stones
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Memory loss
  • Heartburn
  • Back pain

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Ultrasound
  • Technetium 99m sestamibi scan—a nuclear medicine test that uses safe nuclear molecules to make pictures of the parathyroid glands to help locate a single parathyroid adenoma in primary hyperparathyroidism

Other tests may be done to look for other problems hyperparathyroid may cause:

Treatment

Treatment will be based on the type of hyperparathyroidism. Options may include the following:

  • If a growth is causing the problems, surgery may be done to remove the growth
  • Hyperparthyroidism due to a vitamin D deficiency may be treated with medications
  • Treating underlying causes
  • Medication to manage possible side effects

Monitoring of Blood Calcium Levels

Your doctor may choose to regularly check your blood calcium levels and monitor you for possible complications. This may include regular bone density tests every 1-2 years.

Prevention

Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake may play a role in preventing hyperparathyroidism in women. Try to get recommended levels of calcium through dietary choices and supplements.

Revisions

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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