Receiving a diagnosis of hypoparathyroidism can be difficult for you and your family, especially since information about the disease may be hard to find. Following are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers about hypoparathyroidism.
What is hypoparathyroidism?
Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition in which the levels of the parathyroid hormone (PTH) are too low in the body. Normally the parathyroid glands produce PTH, which is responsible for controlling the levels of calcium in the blood. When blood calcium levels drop, the parathyroid glands release more PTH, signaling the bones to break down and release calcium into the blood, and the kidneys to reabsorb more calcium from the urine. PTH also causes the kidneys to produce active vitamin D, which helps the small intestines absorb more calcium from food.
When the body does not produce enough PTH, the levels of calcium in the blood drop, leading to hypocalcemia — inadequately low levels of calcium. Hypocalcemia leads to a wide range of symptoms and issues in the body.
What are the symptoms?
Hypoparathyroidism can cause a number of symptoms, including burning and tingling sensations, muscle aches and cramps, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, dry skin, brittle nails, and patches of hair loss.
What causes hypoparathyroidism?
A number of different things can cause hypoparathyroidism, each resulting in a different type of the disease.
The first type is acquired hypoparathyroidism. Damage to the parathyroid glands or surgical removal, for example, cause this type of disease. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment can cause acquired hypoparathyroidism. Abnormal levels of magnesium also causes some cases of acquired hypoparathyroidism.
Autoimmune responses, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the parathyroid glands, can cause autoimmune hypoparathyroidism.
Some people are born with hypoparathyroidism or have congenital hypoparathyroidism. These people may have no parathyroid glands from birth, or have mutations in the genes that contain the information necessary for the body to make PTH. Some forms of congenital hyperparathyroidism are familial where parents pass genetic mutations to their children.
Finally, some people are born with the disease but without a known cause. Doctors refer to this form of the disease as idiopathic congenital hypoparathyroidism.
How common is hypoparathyroidism?
There are an estimated 70,000 people living with the disease in the U.S. The disease seems to affect males and females in equal numbers and can occur at any age.
How do doctors diagnose and monitor it?
Doctors usually diagnose hypoparathyroidism through a physical examination, a review of family history, and specialized laboratory tests including blood and urine tests.
Blood tests investigate abnormal levels of several minerals and molecules including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and PTH; the urine test determines the amount of calcium being excreted.
During treatment, laboratory tests may need to be repeated once every other month to ensure that levels remain stable and within acceptable ranges.
What are the treatment options?
The standard treatment for hyperparathyroidism is high doses of oral calcium and activated vitamin D (calcitriol). Doctors may prescribe thiazide diuretics to patients who don’t respond to this treatment and have very low levels of blood calcium, but high levels of calcium in the urine, to have the kidneys reabsorb more calcium.
Natpara is a PTH replacement therapy that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in 2015 to treat the disease. However, the treatment was recalled in the U.S. due to packaging issues in 2019, and it is unknown when it will return.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) chose not to recall Natpar (Natpara’s brand name in Europe) for patients in EU countries.
Where can I find out more about treatments and research?
We regularly publish news articles on our website about hypoparathyroidism and its treatment.
A number of other organizations also offer information about treatments and research. These include:
- HypoPARAthyroidism Association
- Parathyroid UK
- Hypoparathyroidism France
- Light of Life Foundation
- American Thyroid Association
Last updated: Nov. 6, 2020
Hypoparathyroidism News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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