Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition that occurs when the parathyroid glands in the neck don’t produce enough parathyroid hormone (PTH).
Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of hypoparathyroidism.
Everyone has four parathyroid glands located near or behind the thyroid gland. Each gland is the size of a grain of rice.
The major function of PTH is to
Too little PTH causes low calcium and high phosphorus in the body. This condition may not cause serious medical problems when caught early, but requires lifelong monitoring and treatment.
The causes of hypoparathyroidism include:
- injury to or removal of the parathyroid glands
- DiGeorge syndrome is a genetic disorder that
affectsthe development of certain body systems
- genetics (family history of the condition)
- autoimmune disease
- cancer radiation treatments
- low magnesium levels
Low calcium levels
- muscle aches or cramps
- tingling, burning, or numbness in the fingertips, toes, and lips
- muscle spasms, especially around the mouth
- patchy hair loss
- dry skin
- brittle nails
- anxiety or depression
- painful menstruation
Children with hypoparathyroidism may also have headaches, vomiting, or dental issues such as weakened tooth enamel or poor tooth development.
Your doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history. They’ll then do a physical examination to check for symptoms such as dry skin, muscle spasms, and hair loss.
Your doctor will order blood tests to check the levels of the following in your blood:
Additional tests include the following:
- Calcium: Your doctor may test your urine for calcium to determine if excess calcium levels are
secretedin the urine.
- EKG: An electrocardiogram (EKG) measures the electrical activity in your heart. This information can tell your doctor if you have an abnormal heart rhythm, which can be caused by calcium deficiency.
- Other testing: X-rays and bone density tests can help your doctor determine if low calcium levels have affected your bones.
Doctors will also check for abnormal tooth development and delayed milestones to diagnose this condition in children.
There are several treatment options for hypoparathyroidism. Treatment for this condition is designed to help restore the proper levels of calcium and minerals in your body.
Initial treatment involves taking calcium carbonate and vitamin D supplements in pill form. Vitamin D is given because it helps the body absorb calcium and eliminate phosphorus.
Your doctor will determine the amount of calcium and vitamin D you need. They’ll monitor the following levels periodically to ensure they’re within the typical range:
Your doctor may suggest taking supplements throughout the day to help stabilize your calcium level. Most individuals need to take supplements to treat this condition for the rest of their lives.
If your calcium levels are life threatening or you have troubling muscle spasms, intravenous (IV) calcium will be given. This relieves your symptoms more quickly because the calcium goes directly into your bloodstream.
Your doctor may also order diuretics to help decrease the amount of calcium secreted in your urine.
If you have hypoparathyroidism, your diet should be rich in calcium and low in phosphorus. Drinking six to eight glasses of water daily may also help ensure your body doesn’t lose the necessary nutrients. Calcium-rich foods include:
- dark green, leafy vegetables
- dairy products
- fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified orange juice
Certain phosphorus-rich foods can significantly decrease calcium levels and should be avoided. These include:
- soft drinks
- red meat
- refined foods, such as white bread and pasta
- trans fats, which can be found in baked goods
Always discuss dietary changes and supplements with your doctor to ensure you get the necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce the risk of complications from hypoparathyroidism. Complications due to low calcium levels may still occur, but they can be improved with treatment. Reversible complications include:
- tetany or prolonged cramp-like spasms in the hands and fingers
- malformed teeth
- heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
- paresthesia or a tingling sensation in the lips, tongue, fingers, or feet
However, certain irreversible complications
- cataracts or the clouding of the lens of the eye
- calcium deposits in the brain
- stunted growth in children
- slow mental development in children
Your doctor will monitor levels of calcium and phosphorus through regular blood tests. These tests will be weekly or monthly after diagnosis.
Once your condition is stabilized with treatment, your blood will be tested twice yearly. If there are any changes in your calcium or phosphorus levels, your doctor will adjust the dosage of supplemental calcium accordingly.
Because hypoparathyroidism is a chronic condition, you’ll need to maintain treatments and dietary changes throughout your life. Most people can keep their symptoms under control with proper long-term treatment.