What is the Parathyroid Gland?
Your parathyroid glands are located in your neck, right behind your thyroid. Their job is to produce the hormone that regulates the amount of calcium in your blood and bones. Calcium is essential to your body and its systems and when it occurs in abnormal amounts it can cause a wide range of symptoms and issues.
Hyperparathyroidism is by far the most common parathyroid problem. In 94% of all cases, it’s caused when one of the parathyroid glands (people typically have four) grows into a benign tumor. This causes it to lose control of its production of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and to stimulate an excessive increase in calcium. Over time, the high amount of calcium can slowly destroy different types of body tissue.
Hyperparathyroidism has a number of different symptoms ranging from fatigue, depression, headaches and the inability to concentrate to kidney stones, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. The good news is that it is highly curable.
Diagnostic & Treatment Options
There are a number of different tests used to confirm hyperparathyroidism. Physicians may recommend more than one type of test to validate the diagnosis.
A simple blood test measure the levels of calcium and parathyroid hormone in the blood. This can indicate whether or not the parathyroid is under or over-producing PHT.
Unabsorbed calcium concentrates in the urine. Performing a urinalysis reveals abnormal levels of calcium and detect possible kidney issues caused by hyperparathyroidism.
Bone density study
A bone density study uses x-rays to determine how many grams of calcium – as well as other minerals — are present in a segment of bone. Osteoporosis, a symptom of abnormally low levels of calcium, can be an indicator of parathyroidism.
If your doctor suspects you may have parathyroidism, he or she may order an ultrasound or CT scan. This will provide an image of your parathyroid glands and reveal any unusual enlargement.
A simple surgical procedure cures parathyroidism. Once the patient is under anesthesia, the surgeon will find the enlarged parathyroid gland causing the problem and remove it. After surgery, the other parathyroid glands take over and continue to produce PTH in the proper amounts, thereby restoring blood and bone calcium levels back to normal. In the very rare situation that all four parathyroid glands must be removed, a small piece of one can be placed in another part of the body where it will continue to produce its calcium regulating hormone.