Tiny and the size of a grain of rice, the oval glands in your neck known as the four parathyroid glands need to work properly to keep things in balance. The condition known as hyperparathyroidism refers to the overactivity of one or more of these four glands, resulting in an excess of calcium in the bloodstream.
The parathyroid glands produce an important hormone that maintains the balance of calcium in the bloodstream. This hormone is called parathyroid hormone. The overproduction of calcium due to the improper function of the parathyroid gland or glands can result in a number of various health problems.
Hyperparathyroidism may be the result of a condition of the parathyroid glands themselves (primary) or as a result of another disease which strongly affects these glands (secondary).
Surgery is the most common treatment for hyperparathyroidism. However certain medications are also effective in the treatment of this condition.
Hyperparathyroidism is often diagnosed before signs or symptoms of the disorder are apparent. When symptoms do occur, they are the result of damage or dysfunction in other organs or tissues due to high calcium levels circulating in the blood or too little calcium in bones.
Symptoms may be so mild and nonspecific that they don't seem at all related to parathyroid function, or they may be severe. The range of signs and symptoms include:
-Fragile bones that easily fracture (osteoporosis)
-Tiring easily or weakness
-Depression or forgetfulness
-Bone and joint pain
-Frequent complaints of illness with no apparent cause
-Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite
Hyperparathyroidism is caused by factors that increase the production of parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid glands maintain proper levels of both calcium and phosphorus in your body by turning the secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) off or on, much as a thermostat controls a heating system to maintain a constant air temperature. Vitamin D also is involved in regulating the amount of calcium in your blood.
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Aimee Boyle is a teacher, mother and regular contributor to EmpowHer. She lives in CT.