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A Comprehensive Guide to Parathyroid Disease

Sep 01, 2022

General Surgeon Anchorage AK

A Comprehensive Guide to Parathyroid Disease

The parathyroid glands are tiny, pea-sized glands in the neck behind the thyroid gland. The average person has four parathyroid glands, two located behind each 'wing' of the thyroid gland. A laboratory test can measure the amount of PTH in your blood. Normal values are 10 to 55 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Normal value ranges may vary among laboratories because of the different measurements or tests for different specimens. 

How Do Parathyroid Glands Work? 

The parathyroid glands in your neck continuously monitor and manage your blood's calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels. When the levels of these minerals rise or fall, these four tiny glands release the parathyroid hormone (PTH). In addition to maintaining bone health, the hormone also plays a significant role in nerve and muscle function.

The parathyroid hormone (PTH) affects the amount of calcium that the bones release into your blood. In other words, your bones release more calcium into your blood with a higher hormone concentration. In contrast, when the parathyroid produces less hormone, the bones release less calcium.

The kidneys are also affected by the parathyroid hormone. Here, it slows down how much calcium and magnesium are filtered into the urine from the blood. The kidneys are also stimulated by parathyroid hormone to produce calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D.

Here are some of the functions of the parathyroid hormone:

  • It activates the release of calcium from bones to the bloodstream.
  • It causes calcium to be absorbed into the blood from the intestine.
  • It stops the kidneys from eliminating calcium in the urine.
  • It causes the kidneys to eliminate phosphate in the urine.
  • It increases blood levels of magnesium.

Signs and Symptoms of Parathyroid Disease

In its early stages, parathyroid illness frequently shows no symptoms. When symptoms appear, they may vary from person to person. A typical blood calcium level brought on by parathyroid abnormalities can result in brittle bones, kidney stones, fatigue, weakness, and other issues.

The kind of disorder you have will determine your symptoms if you have any. Typical symptoms of parathyroid disease include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increase in blood calcium levels suddenly (hypercalcemia)
  • Bone pain and broken bones
  • Fatigue, drowsiness
  • Usual urination, which might cause dehydration and makes you thirsty
  • Kidney stones
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression

See Also: Parathyroidectomy: Everything You Need to Know

Difference between Thyroid and Parathyroid 

Thyroid and parathyroid share a similar name, but they still have many differences. 

  • They have different functions
  • Their surgical process is different
  • They are located in a different place
  • They develop different diseases and problems
  • Thyroid can develop into cancer, but Parathyroid cancer is rare

A study by NCBI mentions that “Parathyroid cancer remains a difficult problem to treat since it is such a rare tumor.”

Causes of Parathyroid Disease

The parathyroid glands need to release calcium, and this vital balance can be upset when they malfunction due to a disease, injury, or other cause. Here are some common causes of Parathyroid disease:

1. Damage to Your Parathyroid Glands

This includes accidental damage to your parathyroid glands from neck or thyroid surgery.

2. Genetic Conditions

The most common genetic cause is DiGeorge syndrome, a chromosomal genetic condition.

3. Autoimmune Diseases

Type 1 autoimmune polyglandular syndrome causes your immune system to attack your parathyroid glands, which causes chronic hypoparathyroidism. 

4. Low Levels of Magnesium

Low levels of magnesium (hypomagnesemia) can cause hypoparathyroidism.

It is important to note that the Thyroid and parathyroid are endocrine glands that produce hormones. The hormones they produce regulate various metabolic processes. However, they differ significantly. While the thyroid regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, the parathyroid regulates calcium levels in the body.

Treatment Options

Through a blood test, your doctor can determine your parathyroid hormone levels. The blood sample is subsequently sent to a lab for analysis. For the parathyroid hormone blood test known as "PTH, intact," the normal range is typically 15 to 65 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). 

There are numerous therapy options available for persons with parathyroid disease. The standard treatment for problems with blood calcium caused by primary hyperparathyroidism is to remove any parathyroid glands that are damaged or malfunctioning. People have four parathyroid glands, so losing one or two won't have a significant negative impact. Similarly, calcium and active vitamin D supplements are frequently used to treat hypoparathyroidism in addition to a diet rich in calcium.

Parathyroid hormone is important for maintaining your blood calcium levels. You should contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing hypercalcemia or hypocalcemia, such as issues with your muscles and cognitive function.

See Also: Parathyroid Disease: What Are the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment?

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