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Thyroid and Endocrine Disorders

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which your body produces too much parathyroid hormone. This hormone helps maintain the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in your body. The parathyroid hormone is manufactured by the small oval-shaped parathyroid glands in your neck, adjacent to your thyroid gland. Each of your four parathyroid glands is about the size of a grain of rice. The parathyroid glands maintain proper levels of both calcium and phosphorus in your body by turning the secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) off or on, much as a thermostat controls a heating system to maintain a constant air temperature.

Signs and Symptoms
Inappropriately high levels of parathyroid hormone lead to high levels of calcium in the blood which can cause symptoms of pain in the muscles, bones, and joints. Other symptoms include depression, memory problems, stomach pain, constipation and ulcers. Calcium is leaked from the bone and causes premature osteoporosis. Excessive calcium is flooded through the kidneys increasing the risk of kidney stones.
Detection and Diagnosis
The most common way to discover an overactive parathyroid is by detecting an elevated level of blood calcium on routine blood tests that are typically performed as part of usual health maintenance exams. Once a high calcium level is confirmed, PTH levels are measured and the diagnosis is easily made with the combination of high calcium and a high PTH level. In most cases, the problem is caused by one of the four parathyroid glands. Ultrasound of the neck and nuclear medicine imaging can help determine which of the four glands is over-producing PTH.
There is no reliable medical treatment for this disorder. Surgically removing only the overactive parathyroid gland(s) (also known as adenomas) is the treatment of choice. All other normal parathyroid glands are left in place and long-term medications are typically unnecessary.
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