What Is Hypoparathyroidism?
Your neck has four pea-sized glands called the parathyroid glands. Hyperparathyroidism happens when they don't make enough parathyroid hormone (PTH), are surgically removed, are damaged or when your body is resistant to that hormone. PTH controls the blood level of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and calcium.
You may also have hypoparathyroidism because you have another condition that affects how much PTH is in your body, such as a low magnesium level.
Your body uses calcium to keep your nerves, muscles, and heart working. Low levels of calcium can result in symptoms ranging from mild to severe muscle spasms, tingling, heart problems, and seizures. The good news is you can treat the condition.
Treatment mostly means making sure your body has enough calcium and vitamin D, which you can do by eating a balanced diet, taking supplements, and keeping an eye on blood levels. If you stick with your treatment plan and see your doctor regularly, you can lead a full, active life with hypoparathyroidism.
Several things can trigger hypoparathyroidism. They include:
- Injury or removal of the glands during surgery
- Autoimmune diseases
- Radiation therapy to your neck or head
- Low levels of magnesium
- Genetic disorders
Some of the symptoms of low blood calcium are:
- Muscle cramps or spasms in your legs, feet, lower back, or face
- Tingling in your fingers, toes, or lips
- Anxiety and depression
- Heart failure
- An irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
Low calcium in the long term can lead to:
- Dental problems
- Movement disorders like tremors
- Hair loss and brittle nails
Getting a Diagnosis
Your doctor will test your blood and your urine for calcium, PTH, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What caused my hypoparathyroidism?
- Do I need any more tests?
- How often will I need to see a doctor?
- What kind of treatments can help? Which do you recommend?
- How can I keep my calcium levels normal?
- What kind of lifestyle changes do I need to make?
- Will it ever go away?
- Will my children get hypoparathyroidism?
If your child has the disease, ask her doctor how you can make sure she gets the nutrients she needs to grow.
- Limit foods with phosphates, like soda and other fizzy drinks. These can pull calcium from your bones.
- Eat foods high in calcium such as low-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables like collard greens and kale, and foods with added calcium like some cereals and orange juices.
A dietitian can help you plan meals to keep you or your child healthy. Your child's doctor will check her regularly to see that her growth is on track.
If normal calcium levels in your body are hard to maintain, you may need to get an injection of PTH. Once your calcium levels are normal again, you can go back to your regular treatment.
Taking Care of Yourself
You can take steps to make living with hypoparathyroidism easier.
What to Expect
As long as you get enough calcium and vitamin D and have your blood checked regularly, you should be able to keep your hypoparathyroidism under control. If you don't take your daily supplement and watch your diet, the condition can be dangerous.
For more information, visit the web site of the Hypoparathyroidism Association.