The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, near or attached to the back side of the thyroid gland. They produce parathyroid hormone, which controls calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels within the blood and bone.
When calcium levels are too low, the body responds by increasing production of parathyroid hormone. This increase in parathyroid hormone causes more calcium to be taken from the bone and more calcium to be reabsorbed by the intestines and kidney. When the calcium level returns to normal, parathyroid hormone production slows down.
Primary hyperparathyroidism is caused by swelling of one or more of the parathyroid glands. This leads to the release of too much parathyroid hormone, which raises the level of calcium in the blood. The term "hyperparathyroidism" generally refers to primary hyperparathyroidism.
If symptoms are present or your calcium level is very high, surgery may be needed to remove the parathyroid gland that is overproducing the hormone. Surgery is also recommended for patients less than 50 years of age.
Treatment for severe symptoms may also include:
Fluids given through a vein (IV)
Medications such as bisphosphonates and calcitonin, which bring down calcium levels quickly
The outlook is good for those with mild symptoms. Most cases of primary hyperparathyroidism are mild.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of hyperparathyroidism.
Wysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. The parathyroid glands, hypercalcemia, and hypocalcemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Schlomo M, Polansky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap. 266.
Bringhurst FR, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Disorders of mineral metabolism. In: Kronenberg HM, Schlomo M, Polansky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2008:chap. 27.
AACE/AAES Task Force on Primary Hyperparathyroidism. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons position statement on the diagnosis and management of primary hyperparathyroidism. Endocr Pract. 2005;11:49-54.
Ari S. Eckman, MD, Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.