The parathyroid glands are four very small glands located behind your thyroid gland. They manufacture parathyroid hormone, which regulates levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Maintaining tight control of blood levels of calcium is essential because you need enough to keep your muscles, nerves, and heart functioning without taking too much away from your bones.
Hyperparathyroidism is the most common health condition affecting the parathyroid glands. In this condition, one or more glands are overactive, so they produce too much hormone.
When blood levels of calcium are normal, the parathyroid glands do not produce and release hormone. But when the glands are overactive, they keep synthesizing parathyroid hormone and increasing the blood level of calcium, regardless of the amount of calcium in your bloodstream.
High levels of calcium increase your risk for complications like kidney stones and an irregular heartbeat. Since the excess calcium in your blood is taken from bones, you’ll also be more likely to develop weak bones and osteoporosis.
You’ll begin to develop symptoms when high levels of calcium affect other organs and tissues throughout your body. Symptoms include:
Primary hyperparathyroidism is caused by:
Hyperparathyroidism can also develop from an underlying condition that lowers blood levels of calcium, such as chronic kidney failure and severe calcium or vitamin D deficiency.
Surgery is the preferred treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism, parathyroid adenoma, and parathyroid hyperplasia. Removal of your parathyroid glands -- parathyroidectomy -- cures 95% of all cases of hyperparathyroidism. If all four glands are involved, three glands and a portion of the fourth are usually removed to leave some functioning tissue.
There are several types of parathyroid surgery:
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