Vial with the label "Parathyroid - Test"

What is a Parathyroid Gland?

There are four parathyroid glands and these are located on the back of the thyroid gland in your neck. The function of the parathyroid glands is to produce a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the level of calcium in your blood. 

What is Hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is an excess of parathyroid hormone in the body due to overproduction by one or more of the parathyroid glands. This in turn results in excess calcium in the blood, which is called hypercalcemia. This disorder can be divided into two types based on the cause. In primary hyperparathyroidism, the parathyroid glands themselves are overactive. In secondary hyperparathyroidism, another disease affects parathyroid hormone production.

What is Primary Hyperparathyroidism?

Primary hyperparathyroidism results from overactivity of one or more of the parathyroid glands. This can occur in the form of a parathyroid adenoma , parathyroid hyperplasia (a condition in which two or more of the parathyroid glands are overactive), or, rarely, a malignant tumor of the parathyroid gland. Most of the time, it occurs randomly, but rarely can be genetic.

What is Secondary Hyperparathyroidism?

In secondary hyperparathyroidism, another condition causes calcium levels to decrease and this, in turn, results in overactivity of the parathyroid glands to compensate. This can be caused by severe calcium deficiency, severe vitamin D deficiency, and chronic kidney disease.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sometimes the symptoms are not noticeable and the diagnosis is made incidentally during routine blood testing. Other times, the symptoms can be mild and non-specific; however, severe symptoms do occur as well. Signs and symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can include bone fracture with osteoporosis, kidney stones, excess urination, abdominal discomfort, constipation, fatigue, depression, memory problems and difficult concentrating, bone, joint, and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

How is it Diagnosed?

Hyperparathyroidism is diagnosed with a blood test, which will check the levels of PTH and calcium. If both of these are elevated, several other tests may be ordered to determine the cause of the hyperparathyroidism.

How is it Treated?

Your doctor may recommend observation with regular blood testing if you have only slightly elevated calcium, normal kidney function, normal bone density, and are otherwise asymptomatic. The most common treatment is surgery and has a 95% success rate. Surgery involves removal of the affected gland(s). Sometimes hyperparathyroidism can be treated with medications but these are not curative. Call Rocky Top ENT & Allergy at 931-219-9990 or 865-383-0737 for more information and to schedule an appointment.