How Hypoparathyroidism May Affect Your Heart
Hypoparathyroidism is characterized by low levels of calcium. Low calcium levels can lead to a number of symptoms and may have a negative effect on the heart, among other organs.
What is hypoparathyroidism?
Hypoparathyroidism is the result of the body producing too little parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH helps to regulate the levels of calcium and phosphate in the body. The four parathyroid glands in the neck — two on each side — are responsible for producing PTH.
Hypoparathyroidism has several causes, but damage or accidental removal of the parathyroid glands during neck surgeries is the most common. Other causes include autoimmune diseases, radiation treatment, low levels of magnesium, or genetic mutations.
Heart issues in hypoparathyroidism
Patients with hypoparathyroidism may have a higher risk of heart problems. Medical literature contains examples of patients experiencing a number of complications related to hypoparathyroidism, including heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and dilated cardiomyopathy (a condition in which the part of the heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body becomes stretched, thin, and weak). Both of these issues can make it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.
One study found that patients with hypoparathyroidism also may have cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN), a condition that primarily affects people with diabetes. CAN is due to the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system and can lead to fatigue, arrhythmia, dizziness, abnormal blood pressure, and sudden heart attacks.
The exact mechanism of how hypoparathyroidism can lead to heart problems is not clear. Researchers think that arrhythmias may be due to hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium). Calcium is an important molecule for the function of the nervous system and the ability of heart muscles to contract. Low levels of calcium can lead to trouble with signals from the autonomic nervous system to the heart. It also may cause changes in the flow of signals between heart cells, leading to an irregular rhythm.
What treatments are available?
A number of case studies have shown that heart problems due to hypoparathyroidism may be reversible with calcium and vitamin D treatment.
In one case report, a 50-year-old woman who had been complaining of muscle cramps, chest pain, and heart dysfunction for two years initially received treatment for heart failure, but her symptoms persisted. After doctors discovered she had low calcium and PTH levels, they gave her calcium and vitamin D supplements. She was symptom-free after a year.
Another study involved a 20-year-old man who had irregular heartbeats, leading to two episodes of losing consciousness associated with shaking of all four limbs. The man’s calcium and parathyroid levels were low. After treatment with oral calcium and vitamin D, his arrhythmias ceased.
Last updated: Dec. 11, 2020
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