Hypoparathyroidism facts*

*Hypoparathyroidism facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

What is hypoparathyroidism?

Hypoparathyroidism is a condition in which the body doesn't make enough parathyroid hormone (PTH).

This hormone regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your body's bones and blood. Decreased levels of PTH lead to low levels of calcium and high levels of phosphorus in the blood. This imbalance can lead to problems with bones, muscles, skin, and nerve endings.

What causes hypoparathyroidism?

The most common cause of hypoparathyroidism is injury to the parathyroid glands, such as during head and neck surgery. Parathyroid glands are small endocrine glands that are located in the neck behind the thyroid gland.

Illustration of the Parathyroid Glands
Illustration of the Parathyroid Glands

It other cases, hypoparathyroidism is present at birth or may be associated with an autoimmune disease that affects the parathyroids along with other glands in the body, such as the thyroid, ovaries, or adrenal glands.

Hypoparathyroidism is very rare. It is different from hyperparathyroidism, a much more common condition in which the body makes too much PTH.

What are the symptoms of hypoparathyroidism?

Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism may include:

  • Tingling in the lips, fingers, and toes
  • Dry hair, brittle nails, and dry, coarse skin
  • Muscle cramps and pain in the face, hands, legs, and feet
  • Cataracts on the eyes
  • Malformations of the teeth, including weakened tooth enamel and misshapen roots of the teeth
  • Loss of memory
  • Headaches
  • Severe muscle spasms (also called tetany) and convulsions

How is hypoparathyroidism treated?

The goal of treatment for hypoparathyroidism is to restore the body's calcium and phosphorus to normal levels. Calcium carbonate and vitamin D supplements are the only currently approved treatment. However, NIH studies have shown the investigational drug PTH to work well as an alternative therapy.

If hypoparathyroidism is diagnosed and treated early, outcomes are usual good and the body grows normally.

If hypoparathyroidism is left untreated, complications can include a blocked airway due to severe muscle spasms, stunted growth, malformed teeth, development of cataracts, and calcium deposits in the brain.


Where is the thyroid gland located? See Answer

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Medically reviewed by James Felicetta, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism

Last update: 9/24/2008

SOURCE: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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