There are normally four parathyroid glands. They are located at the four corners of the thyroid gland, in the neck. Overproduction of parathyroid hormone from any of these glands can lead to hyperparathyroidism. The excess parathyroid hormone leads to elevated blood levels of calcium (hypercalcemia) and decreases blood levels of phosphorus (hypophosphatemia). In about 80% of instances of hyperparathyroidism, a tumor is found on one of the parathyroid glands. In the remaining 20%, all four of the glands are found to be enlarged and hyperactive. Other areas of the body that might be affected by excess parathyroid hormones are the teeth, blood vessels, bones, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system and skin. This disorder can affect all ages and sexes, but is more common in women, especially between the ages of 30 to 50.
Causes of Hyperparathyroidism
Adenomas, or benign tumors of the parathyroid glands is the most common cause of this disorder. Generalized enlargement of all the parathyroid glands can occur. Excessive use of vitamin D or diuretic drugs, such as thiazides, can cause increased calcium levels in the blood.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism
Hyperparathyroidism may occur initially without any specific symptoms. The elevated levels of calcium and low levels of phosphorous may be discovered on routine blood tests. Kidney stones may occur. They usually cause severe flank pain, back pain and pain that may radiate into the groin. There may be blood in the urine. Since prolonged hyperparathyroidism causes the bones to weaken, there may be unexplained fractures. Fractures may also occur after what appears to be minimal trauma. Fatigue and generalized weakness may become severe. The volume and frequency of urination may increase together with increased thirst. The electrolytes disturbances can lead to upper abdominal pain, usually in the midline. There can be nausea and vomiting. The vomiting can be bloody is an ulcer develops. Black, tarry stools can also develop. Depression is common.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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