What Are the Different Types of Hypoparathyroidism?

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition in which patients have low levels of parathyroid hormone, or PTH. PTH controls calcium levels by acting on bones, controlling the breakdown of bone to release calcium, and acting on the stomach and intestines to regulate how much calcium we absorb from what we eat.

Low levels of PTH lead to symptoms that include tingling in the fingers and toes, and severe muscle cramps.

Th parathyroid glands, four small nodes in the neck behind the thyroid glands, produce PTH. These nodes are fragile and easily damaged.

You may have a specific type of hypoparathyroidism, depending on the factor that causes your disease.

Acquired hypoparathyroidism

Damage to or the removal of the parathyroid glands leads to acquired hypoparathyroidism. Because the glands are small and fragile, they can be damaged by accident during surgery to the head or neck. If you were in an accident that required surgery to the head or neck, you may develop acquired hypoparathyroidism.

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy given to treat cancer may also damage your parathyroid glands, resulting in acquired hypoparathyroidism.

Autoimmune hypoparathyroidism

You can develop autoimmune hypoparathyroidism if your immune system mistakenly begins to attack either your parathyroid glands or the PTH itself. You may develop this type of autoimmune reaction as part of another autoimmune disease, called autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 1 (APS1). However, not everyone with APS1 develops hypoparathyroidism.

Autoimmune hypoparathyroidism can also occur with no other symptoms. This is called idiopathic autoimmune hypoparathyroidism because the cause is unknown.

Congenital and idiopathic hypoparathyroidism

You may have hypoparathyroidism from birth. This type of hypoparathyroidism is called congenital hyperparathyroidism. It can occur as a result of mutations in the genes involved in making PTH.

You may also be born without parathyroid glands, which can cause congenital hypoparathyroidism.

For some people, doctors don’t know the cause of hypoparathyroidism. They call the disease idiopathic congenital hypoparathyroidism. Idiopathic is used to distinguish diseases of unknown origin.

Familial hypoparathyroidism

You may have a family history of hypoparathyroidism; if your parents or siblings have hyperparathyroidism, you may also be at risk. Familial hypoparathyroidism usually occurs in the absence of other endocrine diseases or developmental problems.


Last updated: April 15, 2020


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