The parathyroid glands are four glands located in the neck behind the thyroid gland. These glands are responsible for producing parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps regulate calcium levels in the bloodstream. When calcium levels in the blood is low, the parathyroid glands sense this and produce PTH. Normally, levels of PTH in the blood stream is between 10-65 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). PHT then acts on the bones to release calcium and phosphorus. PTH also acts on the kidneys to decrease the excretion of calcium, increase the production of Vitamin D and increase calcium absorption from the gut.
The normal calcium level in a person’s blood stream ranges from 8.5-10.2 mg/dL. When the calcium level is at the high range, normal parathyroids stop producing PTH; when the calcium level is in the low range, normal parathyroids produce PTH in proportion to the amount of calcium that is required by the body.
When the body’s calcium metabolism and parathyroids are in balance, there is an even amount of bone breakdown and bone building so that the calcium storage in our body remains even and your bones remain dense and strong. When there is too much PTH produced, it results in a condition called hyperparathyroidism, which may lead to thinning of the bones, kidney stones, abdominal discomfort and general anxiety.
Parathyroid Glands and PTH
There is a narrow range of calcium required for the nervous and muscular systems to function properly. When blood calcium levels drop below a certain level, receptors in the parathyroid gland release the parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone increases blood calcium levels by stimulating osteoclasts to release calcium by breaking down bone.
When one or more of the parathyroid glands produce too much PTH, the excess hormone removes calcium from the bones and adds it to your blood. This bone calcium loss is why anyone with a bad parathyroid gland eventually develops osteoporosis.
Osteoporotic bones are also more fragile than regular bones and therefore they are susceptible to fractures and breaks. It is the excess calcium in the blood is what causes sickness.
Excessive calcium in the kidney and urine also cause kidney stones. Signs of kidney stones include back or flank pain, blood in the urine, fever, chills or a burning sensation on urination. Kidney stones can be one of the most painful and significant side effects of hyperparathyroidism.
In addition, PTH affects the mind and mental health. An excess of PTH can be associated with feeling of anxiety and fatigue. Other symptoms include sleep difficulty, headaches, difficulty concentrating and depression.
Is Surgery Necessary?
There is uniform agreement in the medical profession that the only way to treat primary hyperparathyroidism is through surgery. Drug therapy is usually reserved for patients who are unable to undergo surgery for some reason. This is not a cure, but a temporizing measure.
A ‘wait and see’ approach does not work. Only removing the bad parathyroid gland will cure the parathyroid disease.