The parathyroid glands are four small glands each about the size of a grain of rice that are embedded in the surface of the thyroid gland, two on each side.  They are shown as brown shapes in the illustration above.  Their purpose is to release parathyroid hormone (“PTH”).  In turn, parathyroid hormone helps regulate the calcium, phosphorous and Vitamin D levels in the blood and bones.
When calcium levels are too low, more PTH is released, calcium levels in the blood increase.

Importance of Calcium

Without proper calcium levels:
•    The electrical impulses that travel along the nerves are impeded and the nervous system will not function properly;
•    Your muscles will not function properly;
•    Your bones will be weakened;
•    Many of the organs of the body will be damaged.

Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is when the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone PTH).  While most common in women over age 60, it can also occur in men and younger adults.

Hyperparathyroidism Symptoms
•    Bone pain or tenderness feeling
•    Depression
•    Forgetfulness or trouble concentrating
•    Feelings of tiredness
•    Feelings of weakness
•    Irritability
•    Osteoporosis (brittle bones) and osteopenia (reduced bone mass)
•    Excessive urine
•    Kidney stones
•    Nausea
•    Loss of appetite
•    Problems with sleep
•    Lowering of sex drive
•    Thinning hair

Tests

The blood is tested to check for high levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), calcium, and alkaline phosphatase, and if there are lower levels of phosphorous.  Often a 24-hour urine collection test is ordered.

If there are indications of hyperparathyroidism, then bone x-rays, bone mineral density tests and scans of the kidneys or urinary tract are done to try to determine the extent of the problem.

Treatment

Depending on the severity of the problem, treatments can be:
•    Drinking more fluids and balancing the electrolytes
•    Diagnosing and treating vitamin and mineral deficiencies–like too low amounts of vitamin D
•    Doing exercises
•    Drinking less diuretics (like coffee, tea and soda)
•    Taking vitamin D
•    limit the amount of phosphate intake
•    Surgery to remove one or more of the parathyroid glands
•    Kidney transplant or dialysis