Parathyroid disease aka hyperparathyroidism is one of the common conditions that doctors see every day. Nowadays we see it more and more. If you are currently treating kidney stones repeatedly or other seemingly random health problems like kidney problems, depression, fatigue, cardiovascular diseases, bone diseases, tingling sensation in your nerves, muscular spasms, tetany, hardening of your muscles or arteries due to excess calcium accumulation and so many other symptoms you may be having a Parathyroid disease. In fact, it is possible for you not to have any of these symptoms, and yet have Parathyroid disease. The fact that you do not have any symptoms yet does not mean it cannot create problems for you later on. Parathyroid disease is more popular than you think. It is the third most common metabolic disorder in the world. The first two most popular metabolic disorders being diabetes and thyroid diseases respectively. It is estimated that somewhere between 7 million people and 70 million people worldwide have this disease. Yet so many people do not know they have this potentially serious disease linked to kidney problems, hypertension, cardiovascular issues. That is why I am here. I will tell you about:
- What we mean by “parathyroid” is in the first place
- Types of Parathyroid disease
- The causes of these diseases
- Their symptoms and how to detect it; and,
- Some tips on improving Parathyroid disease
What is a parathyroid gland and what is causing Parathyroid Disease or Hyperparathyroidism?
Before we can effectively tell you about Parathyroid diseases, we think it is important to tell you what the parathyroid gland is and what it does in your body. Located somewhere in your neck is your thyroid gland which controls so much of your body’s metabolism. On the thyroid gland are four small pea-sized glands called the parathyroid glands. These glands secrete a hormone called the parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone regulates how your body uses two important electrolytes– calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is a very important ion in the body. It is important in maintaining bone strength, muscular function, and normal functions of the body cells. Abnormalities in the parathyroid gland will lead to abnormalities in parathyroid hormone secretion which will lead to disruption in the functions of the bones, kidneys, blood vessels and muscles.
Types of Hyperparathyroidism aka Parathyroid disease:
There are two major types of Parathyroid disease. There is hyperthyroidism which is a more common form of Parathyroid disease which is caused by an excess secretion of parathyroid hormone. The second type is hypothyroidism which is caused by deficient secretion of parathyroid hormone. They have different causes and cause different symptoms.
Causes of Hyperparathyroidism aka Parathyroid disease::
Parathyroid diseases can be caused by different things, from genetics to a lot of other factors depending on whether it is hyperparathyroidism or hypoparathyroidism. Let’s take a look at the two:
Hyperparathyroidism can be divided into three subtypes – primary, secondary and tertiary hyperparathyroidism. These three has different causes. Primary hyperparathyroidism is caused mostly by benign tumors called adenomas in the parathyroid gland. This tumor could be in a single parathyroid gland or rarely in multiple glands. In very rare cases, cancerous tumors called carcinoma can be the cause. This is a very deadly condition. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is usually caused by kidney disease, use of drugs like lithium and vitamin D deficiency if it is sustained for a long time, it can lead to tertiary hyperparathyroidism.
Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is caused by inactive parathyroid glands due to unknown causes, surgical removal, or an autoimmune condition which causes your immune system to attack your thyroid glands.
Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism aka Parathyroid disease and how to detect it:
Nowadays, doctors do not really rely on symptoms to detect hyperparathyroidism as many people with hyperparathyroidism may not show any symptoms at all. This does not mean hyperparathyroidism without these symptoms should not be taken seriously as you are still in danger of these uncomfortable symptoms. What we majorly look out for is an excess of calcium and parathyroid hormone and a deficiency of vitamin d (calcitriol) in the blood. Ultrasonic scans of the neck check for the structure of the parathyroid gland. Bone density and kidney tests confirm the integrity of the bone and kidney. Urine tests can also check for high levels of calcium in the urine. However, hyperthyroidism can also cause recurrent kidney stones due to the fact that excess parathyroid hormones cause acidity in the urine and excessive calcium release. The stones are made up of uric acid crystals and calcium. This condition is medically called nephrolithiasis and is a very painful condition. There can be excess calcium accumulation in the blood vessels and muscles tissues which can cause them to harden (also called calcification). This would lead to cardiovascular and muscular problems.
Hypothyroidism is usually detected by low calcium, high phosphorus, and low parathyroid hormone. This can cause a condition called tetany which are very painful muscle twitching and spasms.
How to treat or manage Hyperparathyroidism aka Parathyroid disease:
We will talk more about this in other articles. However, the best method to treat hyperparathyroidism is to surgically remove tumors or the abnormal parathyroid gland. You may get a prescription for vitamin D in case of secondary hyperparathyroidism caused by vitamin D deficiency but it is very dangerous in primary hyperthyroidism as it can worsen the excess blood calcium levels. Some other drugs like bisphosphonate and cinacalcet can be used. However, they are expensive in the long run. Cheaper and equally effective alternatives such as holistic therapy, acupuncture, and homeopathic medicines are available. You can check out our other articles to see how these therapies can help you treat Parathyroid diseases.