Parathyroid Adenoma

Parathyroid adenoma refers to the presence of a non-cancerous (benign) tumor on one of the parathyroid glands, four pea-sized glands nestled behind the thyroid.These small glands, vital for calcium regulation, can occasionally develop adenomas, leading to excessive secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH), a condition known as hyperparathyroidism. This overproduction disrupts the delicate balance of calcium in the body, potentially resulting in elevated blood calcium levels.

Distinctive characteristics of parathyroid adenoma include its benign nature and its unilateral presence on one of the parathyroid glands. The tumor prompts increased PTH production, which, in turn, influences calcium levels.


What are the causes of Parathyroid Adenomas?

In the majority of cases, the exact cause of parathyroid adenomas are unknown. While the precise reasons are still not well understood, some of the causes can include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Certain individuals may carry genetic factors that increase their susceptibility to parathyroid adenoma.
  • Exposure to head and neck radiation: Exposure to ionizing radiation, especially during medical treatments in the head and neck area, has been suggested as a potential risk factor for parathyroid adenomas.
  • Taking lithium for a long time

What are the risk factors for parathyroid adenomas?

Certain demographic and familial elements can heighten the risk of parathyroid adenoma. These risk factors include:

  • Age: Incidences of parathyroid adenoma tend to rise with age, particularly in individuals over 50.
  • Gender: Women are more prone to parathyroid adenoma than men, potentially due to hormonal influences.
  • Family History: A familial predisposition to parathyroid disorders can elevate an individual’s risk.
  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormonal levels, such as those occurring during pregnancy or menopause, may contribute to adenoma development.


What are the symptoms of Parathyroid Adenoma?

Common symptoms that may signal the presence of a parathyroid adenoma include:

  • Fatigue and Weakness: Increased parathyroid hormone levels can lead to excessive calcium in the bloodstream, causing fatigue and overall weakness.
  • Bone Pain: Elevated calcium levels may trigger bone pain and discomfort, impacting the quality of life.
  • Frequent Urination: Excess calcium can affect kidney function, leading to increased urination and potential dehydration.
  • Digestive Issues: Symptoms like constipation, nausea and abdominal pain may arise due to the influence of parathyroid adenoma on digestive processes.
  • Confusion


How are parathyroid adenomas diagnosed?

Dr. Cohen uses a range of tests to diagnose parathyroid adenomas including:

  • Blood Tests: Assessing blood calcium levels and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels provides crucial insights. Elevated calcium and PTH levels may indicate the presence of parathyroid adenoma.
  • 24-hour Urine Test: Used to check for excess calcium in urine.
  • Imaging Studies: High-resolution ultrasound and sestamibi scans of the neck are effective tools for visualizing the parathyroid glands and identifying abnormalities. CT scans and ultrasounds of the kidney to check for calcification and/or kidney stones.
  • Bone Density Scans: Assessing bone density helps evaluate the impact of elevated calcium on bone health, aiding in diagnosis and treatment planning.

The Importance of Early Detection

Timely identification of parathyroid adenoma is paramount for several reasons:

  • Preventing Complications: Early detection allows for intervention before complications such as kidney stones, osteoporosis, or other related issues arise.
  • Quality of Life Improvement: Swift diagnosis enables the implementation of tailored treatments, enhancing overall well-being and relieving symptoms promptly.
  • Preventing Bone Loss: Addressing elevated calcium levels early can help prevent the loss of bone density and associated complications.


How are parathyroid adenomas treated?

Navigating the landscape of parathyroid adenoma treatment involves a tailored approach. Treatment options include:

  • Observation: In cases where the adenoma is small and asymptomatic, a “watch-and-wait” approach may be recommended.
  • Medication: Certain medications, like cinacalcet, can help regulate parathyroid hormone levels and manage associated symptoms.
  • Surgery (Parathyroidectomy): Surgical removal of the adenoma or affected parathyroid gland may be advised, especially if symptoms persist or complications arise.
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