The Parathyroid glands are different than the thyroid gland. The four parathyroid glands are usually located on the back of the thyroid gland, but they can be located around the jaw or neck. Parathyroid glands secrete a hormone called as Parathyroid Hormone (PHT). Main function of PHT hormone is to control the level of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. PHT not only helps the body to make vitamin D but also helps to prevent the loss of excessive calcium in the urine. When the parathyroid gland is over active, more calcium is taken from the bones. This is called Hyperparathyroidism. Human bone and brain need calcium for various essential functions. Lower calcium level in the bones causes a serious condition called as Osteoporosis while excessive calcium level in the blood increases the risk of stroke. Hence PHT hormone plays an important role in regulating proper exchange of calcium between the blood and the bones.
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Types of Parathyroid Diseases
- Hyperparathyroidism (HPT)
Hyperparathyroidism occurs due to the excessive secretion of PTH by parathyroid gland. Hyperparathyroidism is caused by an adenoma which is a benign tumor on the parathyroid. Excessive PTH can cause more calcium in the blood. This condition is known as hypercalcemia which can create serious problems including osteoporosis and kidney stones.
Hypoparathyroidism occurs when the body makes insufficient PTH so that calcium level in the blood becomes too low. Hypoparathyroidism usually is caused by neck surgery or damage to the parathyroid glands.
- Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid Gland is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of neck. Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid. A lump in the neck is the major symptom of thyroid cancer other symptoms also include voice change, difficulty in swallowing and throat pain. Treatments include surgery, hormone therapy, radioactive iodine, radiation and in some cases chemotherapy.
Symptoms of Parathyroid Diseases
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Bone or joint pain
- Anxiety or depression
- Kidney stones
- A lump in the neck
- Difficulty in swallowing and speaking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps or spasms
Causes and Risk Factors of Parathyroid Diseases
The exact cause is unknown. Generally parathyroid diseases occur between ages 40 to 75 but it can also occur at any age. Major risk factors include:
- Heredity is the major risk factor in parathyroid disease. If any family member had hyperparathyroidism then other family members always at greater risk to develop the disease.
- Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndromes conditions that can make tumors grow in the parathyroid glands, pituitary glands and the pancreas. The condition is also called multiple endocrine adenomatosis and Wermer’s syndrome. It is usually inherited.
- A history of radioactive iodine therapy used for thyroid cancer
- Radiation exposure from nuclear power plant accidents or other sources.
Diagnosis of Parathyroid Diseases
Timely diagnosis is very important to avoid complications. Common diagnosis methods include:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Imaging test like CT scan, MRI scan, Ultrasound, X rays and Bone density test
Treatment of Parathyroid Diseases
Doctor decides most effective treatment option as per the type of disease and patient’s general health. Common treatment options include:
This is the first line of treatment. Doctor prescribes the medicines to reduce parathyroid hormone and to control the level of calcium in the blood.
Doctor performs Parathyroidectomy to remove cancerous tumor in the parathyroid gland. Minimally invasive parathyroidectomy is the most advanced method of surgery.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is used to kill the cancerous cells. Radiation therapy is performed to avoid recurrence of cancer or to kill cancer cells remained in the body even after the surgery.
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