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Hypoparathyroidism

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When the body produces a very limited number of parathyroid hormones, a person may become prone to muscle spasms, cataract formation, and even seizures in a condition that is known as Hypoparathyroidism. Low levels of the parathyroid hormone, or the inability of the body to assimilate it can cause hypocalcemia.

A person requires substantial amounts of calcium and phosphorus in order to maintain the bones in the body. These important minerals abound within ions that are found in cells and in the blood. The job of parathyroid hormones is to regulate both the calcium and phosphorus content of the bones and blood. When the four pea-sized parathyroid glands found adjacent to the thyroid gland within the neck produce a very small amount of the parathyroid hormone, the levels of calcium in the blood fall, while the levels of phosphorus rise.

HYPOPARATHYROIDISM SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

In hereditary Hypoparathyroidism, a person's parathyroid glands do not function properly at birth. A recessive gene passed down from the parents to a child causes this. Symptoms begin to manifest themselves within the first 10 years of a person's life, often as early as 2 years. Another cause of Hypoparathyroidism stems from the DiGeorge syndrome. This disorder takes place when a person is born without parathyroid glands.

People who have a family history of Hypoparathyroidism are doubly at risk for the disease, so are patients who suffer from Addison's disease, an autoimmune disorder of the endocrine system.

HYPOPARATHYROIDISM CAUSES

Acquired Hypoparathyroidism may be caused when the parathyroid glands are injured during surgery to the neck or head, as in the case of procedures performed to remove throat or neck cancer, or to treat thyroid gland diseases. A low level of parathyroid hormone secretion may also occur when the magnesium levels in the blood decrease, or with metabolic alkalosis, when the blood pH levels are excessively high. In very rare cases, the condition occurs as a side effect of a hyperthyroidism treatment involving radioactive iodine.

Other causes include endocrine disorders such as an adrenal insufficiency known as type I polyglandular autoimmune syndrome. Very rarely, the body's immune system produces antibodies that reject the parathyroid hormones. This autoimmune disorder eventually results in the parathyroid glands ceasing production of parathyroid hormones.
hypoparathyroidism
Image: Hypoparathyroidism


People who are suffering from Hypoparathyroidism will experience a host of symptoms, which include dry skin and brittle nails, tingling in the lips, fingers and toes, weak tooth enamel, muscle cramps and spasms, abdominal pain, cataract formation, convulsions or seizures, facial pain, pain in the legs and feet, and spasms of the larynx which may result in breathing difficulties.

Other symptoms include painful menstrual periods in women, spasms of the hand and feet, delayed or stunted tooth growth in children, and a decrease in consciousness.

HYPOPARATHYROIDISM TREATMENT

People who have had surgery for treatment of thyroid disorders are at risk for acquiring Hypoparathyroidism. So are people who have a family history of the disease, and those who suffer from Addison's disease as well as other autoimmune or endocrine disorders.

Hypoparathyroidism occurs in both males and females belonging to any age group, but particularly in children below 16 years old, as well as in adults 40 years of age or older.

HYPOPARATHYROIDISM DEFINITION

The doctor will take down the patient's medical and family histories, and take note of all the symptoms a patient exhibits, such as tingling of the extremities or muscle spasms. The doctor will also determine if the patient has had any recent surgical procedures performed, particularly operations involving the neck or head area.

The doctor will then perform a thorough physical examination to look for any signs of Hypoparathyroidism. The doctor will order tests to check the patient's blood calcium levels, parathyroid hormone levels, blood phosphorus levels, as well as blood magnesium levels.

Other diagnostic tests include an electrocardiogram to take electrical readings of the patient's heart for any sign of hypocalcemia-induced arrhythmia; a urine test to check a person's calcium levels, and x-rays or bone density tests to measure any evidence of abnormal calcium levels that may affect a patient's bones.

When diagnosing children who exhibit symptoms of Hypoparathyroidism, doctors will examine bone and tooth development, as well as check whether they have reached each developmental milestone appropriate to their age group.

HYPOPARATHYROIDISM TREATMENT

The goal of treatment for Hypoparathyroidism is to restore the body's calcium levels to normal and to ensure that there is an adequate balance of the important minerals in the body. Based on a patient's symptoms and the severity of their condition, the doctor will order a treatment regimen geared at normalizing both the calcium and phosphorus levels in the body.

The doctor will prescribe an appropriate dose of oral calcium carbonate tablets, as well as vitamin D, to enable the body to absorb enough calcium while eliminating excess phosphorus. The doctor may also refer the patient to a dietician for a prescribed diet rich in calcium, such as dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, citrus fruits, and breakfast cereals. The dietician will likewise recommend that the patient avoid carbonated soft drinks that contain high levels of phosphorus.


For immediate relief of more severe symptoms, the doctor may order a hospital confinement for an intravenous drip of a calcium infusion. This is particularly important if the patient consistently experiences severe muscle spasms due to a related complication called tetany.

Hypoparathyroidism is a chronic disease that may last a patient's lifetime. As such, treatment for its symptoms will need to be a lifetime regimen. The patient will also need to undergo regular blood tests to check their levels of calcium, and to take calcium supplements depending on the rise or fall of their calcium levels.

A majority of Hypoparathyroidism sufferers are able to keep their symptoms down to a minimum as long as they continue with their long-term treatment. The outcome for this disease is favorable, particularly if it is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.
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