This disease is destructive and causes high levels of calcium in the blood, which may lead to serious health issues or early death. Most patients can be cured by the removal of the tumour.
Almost all people who develop parathyroid issues do display symptoms. They may be obvious, like depression, fatigue, frequent headaches and kidney stones.
For some people, the symptoms are more subtle and include difficulty in concentrating and high blood pressure. If you have these symptoms, you will almost certainly feel a great deal better after your parathyroid tumour is removed.
This disease doesn’t always have the same presentation, depending on who it is affecting. It may give you symptoms within the first few years of developing high levels of calcium in the blood. Or it might not present symptoms for six to eight years, other than osteoporosis, kidney stones, poor memory and fatigue.
Hyperparathyroidism will destroy your body slowly and take away many of the joys you have in life as it does. You may feel quite miserable. But this disease is not that difficult to cure.
The diagnosis of this disease can be attained by measuring the parathyroid hormone level and comparing that to the blood calcium level. The hormone produced by the gland controls the amount of calcium in your blood and if the level of calcium in the blood is too high, a tumour in the parathyroid glands is the usual cause.
Unfortunately for diagnosticians, about 20% of hyperparathyroidism patients have high calcium but normal PTH levels, even though the glands are still the problem. Normally, though, a high PTH level and high calcium level indicate a parathyroid tumour.
The treatment chosen depends upon the cause and severity of your condition. If your calcium levels are just mildly raised and you don’t have symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you have regular checkups.
However, you will need treatment if:
- Your bones lose calcium
- Your kidneys are not functioning properly
- You develop kidney stones
If you do need treatment, this might include:
- More exercise
- Drinking fluids to prevent kidney stones
- Using oestrogen if you are postmenopausal
- Not using thiazide-type water pills (diuretics)
If your blood calcium level is quite high, you may need surgery to remove the parathyroid gland that overproduces its hormone. In addition to this if you are below 50 years of age and you have a normal calcium level but an elevated PTH level, then surgery is often recommended. This is to prevent osteoporosis from developing due to longstanding hyperparathyroidism.
For patients with elevated calcium levels treatment may initially include:
- Medications to bring calcium levels back where they should be
- IV fluids
Once the calcium level and underlying problems are corrected, your PTH levels may return to normal.
Then treatment may include:
- Doctor-prescribed vitamin D if your levels are low
- Surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid glands
Patients with chronic kidney failure often have parathyroid gland dysfunction. In this situation vitamin D and calcium will often be prescribed. Further, dialysis, a kidney transplant or surgery to remove overactive parathyroid glands may be needed.
In all situations treatment for parathyroid disorders is aimed at restoring the balance of calcium and phosphorous.
If you have questions or concerns about parathyroid health make an appointment to see our thyroid surgeon.