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In This Article

Hypoparathyroidism (hypoPT) is an uncommon condition that happens when your body doesn’t make enough parathyroid hormone (PTH) or the blood levels of PTH are undetectable. 

How Do You Know If You Have Hypoparathyroidism?

HypoPT can have many symptoms. Remember that many of these are seen in other conditions too, so it is vital to know the difference.

Common short-term symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Stomach pain
  • Irregular heart rhythm (or arrhythmia)
  • Tingling in your extremities, such as fingers and toes (and sometimes lips)
  • Confusion
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Easily broken nails
  • (In children) Weakened enamel on your teeth
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Anxiety/fear

The common symptoms can be mild. Keeping a journal of when and how these symptoms present can help your doctor address the root cause of what is happening in your body and whether or not to look for hypoPT.

Long-term complications:

  • Cataracts: When the lens of your eye becomes cloudy and your vision becomes blurry
  • Calcium deposits in your brain
  • Kidney pain
  • Depression
  • Poor quality of life/health

Most of these indicate hypoPT may be chronic and not temporary. They are also difficult to detect on your own, so this is where seeing your doctor will come in handy.

Severe complications:

  • Seizures
  • Kidney stones
  • Spasms in the larynx, which can cause breathing problems

If you have one of these, contact your doctor or local emergency room immediately. When you are with your doctor, you will want to mention the other more common symptoms you have so that they know to look for hypoPT.

Because almost all hypoPT symptoms can appear in other conditions, it is vital to let your doctor know of everything you experience so they can make the proper diagnosis. In addition, there are more issues in children with hypoPT.

Complications in children with hypoparathyroidism:

  • Issues with physical growth
  • Tooth and other dental problems
  • Slower mental development

In some of these complications with childhood hypoPT, the conditions are not reversible and require lifelong care. 

Similarly, in adults with chronic hypoPT, there are other irreversible complications. 

Where Are Your Parathyroid Glands?

There are four parathyroid glands, and they are normally about the size and shape of a grain of rice. They're usually behind the thyroid. In rare cases, the parathyroid glands exist in your chest or esophagus.

Why Are Your Parathyroid Glands Important?

The parathyroid glands control how much calcium is in your body. If you have too much calcium in your blood, this is known as hypercalcemia. If you have too little, which is what hypoPT causes, this is called hypocalcemia.

Calcium is in your bones and blood. It helps your nerves function. It aids in the movement of your muscles. If you bleed, it will help clot the blood. And it helps makes your heart work properly.

For these reasons, hypocalcemia can cause these bodily functions to stop working correctly. 

Are You at Risk for HypoPT?

HypoPT can be genetic or brought on by things that occur later in life, such as neck or thyroid surgery. It can also happen when you have certain autoimmune disorders like Addison’s disease or pernicious anemia, which results from lower levels of hormones from the adrenal glands. 

People of all ages are at risk for hypoPT. But the leading cause is surgery complications, which typically occur in adults. Here are a few of the main causes of hypoPT.

  • Genetics. Genetics only play a role in about 10% of hypoPT cases, but you may have it if you were born without parathyroid glands. Without these, your body cannot make PTH  hormones, leading to many other problems later in life.
  • Surgery. If you developed hypoPT from neck or thyroid surgery, you are among the roughly 75% of people who have hypoPT. Fortunately, most of these cases don’t last forever and can recovery can happen within days or months; less commonly, permanent damage to the parathyroid glands after surgery can occur. Radiation treatment to the neck for conditions like cancer can also damage the parathyroid glands in rare situations.
  • Autoimmunity. Your immune system may mistakenly attack the parathyroid glands and  damage them permanently  This is known as polyglandular autoimmune syndrome.
  • Magnesium deficiency. One other way you can develop hypoPT is through lower magnesium levels in your blood. The good thing about this condition is that the disease can go away once your body gets enough magnesium back in the bloodstream.

Hypoparathyroidism and You

HypoPT can be temporary or permanent, but it is treatable. Anytime something in your body doesn’t feel right, see a doctor.

HypoPT is uncommon, and many of your symptoms may be some other temporary condition. Remember to pay attention to your body and what is happening inside and outside it. Always ask your doctor to check for this illness if you believe you may have it.

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Photo Credit: Natalia Gdovskaia / Getty Images


Cleveland Clinic: “Hypoparathyroidism.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Hypoparathyroidism.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hypoparathyroidism.”

National Institutes of Health: “What are the symptoms of hypoparathyroidism?”