Parathyroid Adenoma: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Parathyroid Adenoma

What is parathyroid adenoma?

A parathyroid adenoma is a benign tumor on one of your parathyroid glands. These are four very small glands located near or at the back of your thyroid gland. They produce parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone helps control the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your blood.

A parathyroid adenoma causes the affected gland to release more PTH than it should. This disrupts your calcium and phosphorus balance. This condition is called hyperparathyroidism.

What are the symptoms of parathyroid adenoma?

There is a good chance that you will not experience any symptoms if you have this condition. People often find out they have one of these tumors during a blood test for another problem.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these tumors can lead to hyperparathyroidism. In fact, these tumors are the most common cause of this condition. The hyperparathyroidism associated with these tumors can cause issues with your bones, since your calcium levels are affected. Your bones might be:

  • fragile
  • brittle
  • painful

According to the Mayo Clinic, hyperparathyroidism may cause you to experience:

  • bone fractures
  • kidney stones
  • excessive urination

In addition to these symptoms, you may have more general or nonspecific symptoms. These might include:

  • mental changes such as depression, lethargy, or confusion
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • pain in your muscles or abdomen

What causes parathyroid adenoma?

Sometimes, doctors aren’t sure what causes a tumor to appear on one of your glands.

You may be genetically predisposed to develop these tumors. Radiation exposure may also lead to an increased likelihood of developing a parathyroid adenoma.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you are more likely to develop a parathyroid adenoma if you’re a woman and over 60 years old. These tumors appear in men and women of other ages as well.

How is parathyroid adenoma diagnosed?

Because these tumors cause your body to produce too much PTH, your doctor will check your blood levels for this hormone. If they are elevated, your doctor may consider this condition.

Elevated PTH blood levels are not the only indication that you may have a parathyroid tumor. Because PTH helps regulate your calcium and phosphorus, unusual levels of those minerals in your blood may also suggest that you have one of these tumors. Your doctor might check your bone density and look for kidney stones with:

How is parathyroid adenoma treated?

Treatment typically involves a surgical removal of the tumor.

Having one of these tumors used to mean that doctors would need to check all four of your parathyroid glands during surgery. Today’s technology allows them to figure out before surgery where the tumor is and whether you have more than one. According to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health System, only around 10 percent of people with this condition have a tumor in more than one gland. These surgeries are successful in curing the tumors in 90 percent of cases.

If your condition is mild, your doctor might choose not to perform the surgery. Instead, they might simply monitor your condition.

Doctors may prescribe medications for your condition. Hormone replacement therapy can be helpful for postmenopausal women whose bone density is a concern. For other patients, doctors may suggest calcimimetics — drugs that can decrease the secretion of PTH.

The takeaway

Parathyroid adenoma is a small benign tumor on one or more of your four parathyroid glands. These tumors can lead to a condition called hyperparathyroidism. This condition can cause bone fractures or kidney stones. In mild cases, your doctor may simply monitor your condition. Other treatments involve medications or surgery.

Read This Next

16 Inventive Mushroom Recipes for Vegetarians
Foot Detox Baths: Fact or Fiction?
Why I Swiped Left on Sugar
Is Corn a Vegetable?
Are Fortified and Enriched Foods Healthy?