Hyperparathyroidism is a condition characterized by an overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH) by the parathyroid glands. These small glands, located in the neck near the thyroid, play a crucial role in regulating calcium levels in the blood. When the parathyroid glands become overactive, it can lead to various health issues.


What is Hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is categorized into three types:

  • Primary Hyperparathyroidism: Caused by an enlargement of one or more of the parathyroid glands, leading to excess production of PTH.
  • Secondary Hyperparathyroidism: Often a result of chronic kidney disease or vitamin D deficiency, causing an overproduction of PTH as a compensatory mechanism.
  • Tertiary Hyperparathyroidism: Occurs when secondary hyperparathyroidism becomes autonomous, continuing to produce excessive PTH even after the initial cause has been treated.

What is Parathyroid Hormone (PTH)?

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is a critical regulator of calcium metabolism in the body. It helps maintain calcium balance by:

  • Increasing calcium absorption from the gut.
  • Reducing calcium excretion in the urine.
  • Releasing calcium from bones.

When PTH levels are elevated, it can cause significant disruptions in calcium homeostasis, leading to hyperparathyroidism.


What causes Hyperparathyroidism?

The causes of hyperparathyroidism differ based on the type:

  • Primary Hyperparathyroidism: Often caused by a benign tumor called an adenoma on one of the parathyroid glands. In rare cases, it can be due to hyperplasia of all four glands or, very rarely, parathyroid cancer.
  • Secondary Hyperparathyroidism: Commonly linked to chronic kidney disease, which impairs the kidneys’ ability to convert vitamin D to its active form, leading to low calcium levels and compensatory PTH overproduction.
  • Tertiary Hyperparathyroidism: Results from long-standing secondary hyperparathyroidism, where the parathyroid glands become hyperactive and function independently of calcium levels.


What are the symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism?

The symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can vary widely depending on the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue: Chronic tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Bone Pain and Fragility: Increased risk of fractures and bone pain due to calcium being leached from the bones.
  • Kidney Stones: High levels of calcium in the blood can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
  • Digestive Issues: Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
  • Mental Health Problems: Depression, anxiety, and cognitive disturbances.
  • Muscle Weakness: Difficulty with everyday tasks due to muscle fatigue.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, primary hyperparathyroidism affects approximately 100,000 Americans annually, predominantly women over 60 years old.


How is Hyperparathyroidism Diagnosed?

Diagnosing hyperparathyroidism involves several steps, including:

  • Blood Tests: Elevated calcium levels and high PTH levels in the blood are indicative of hyperparathyroidism.
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasound, Sestamibi scans, and CT scans can help identify the location and size of overactive parathyroid glands.
  • Bone Density Tests: Assessing bone density can help evaluate the impact of hyperparathyroidism on bone health.


How is Hyperparathyroidism Treated?

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism depends on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Common treatment approaches include:

  • Monitoring: Mild cases may be monitored with regular blood tests and bone density scans.
  • Medications: Drugs like bisphosphonates can help manage bone density, and calcimimetics can reduce PTH production.
  • Addressing Underlying Causes: Treating chronic kidney disease or vitamin D deficiency in secondary hyperparathyroidism can help reduce PTH levels.
  • Surgery: Parathyroidectomy, the surgical removal of the overactive gland(s), is often the most effective treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism. Studies show that surgery has a success rate of over 95%.


Lifestyle and Dietary Changes to Manage Hyperparathyroidism

Managing hyperparathyroidism also involves lifestyle and dietary changes to support overall health and calcium balance:

  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help reduce the risk of kidney stones.
  • Calcium Intake: Monitoring dietary calcium intake is essential, particularly in secondary hyperparathyroidism.
  • Vitamin D: Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels through diet or supplements can support calcium absorption and parathyroid function.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity helps maintain bone health and overall well-being.


What is the Long-Term Outlook for Hyperparathyroidism?

The prognosis for hyperparathyroidism varies based on the type and treatment. Primary hyperparathyroidism treated with surgery generally has an excellent prognosis, with most patients experiencing significant symptom relief. Secondary hyperparathyroidism outcomes depend on managing the underlying cause, such as chronic kidney disease.

Monitoring and regular follow-ups are crucial to ensure that PTH levels remain within a normal range and to prevent complications such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, effective management of hyperparathyroidism can significantly improve quality of life and reduce the risk of long-term complications.


Hyperparathyroidism is a complex condition with various symptoms and causes. Understanding the role of the parathyroid hormone and the impact of elevated PTH levels on the body is essential for effective management. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle adjustments, individuals with hyperparathyroidism can achieve better health outcomes and improved quality of life.

Whether through surgery, medication, or lifestyle changes, managing hyperparathyroidism requires a comprehensive approach tailored to each patient’s needs. If you experience symptoms of hyperparathyroidism, call us at 310-620-4419 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jason Cohen, to explore the best treatment options for your condition.

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