Underactive Parathyroid Glands (hypoparathyroidism)

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Underactive Parathyroid Glands (hypoparathyroidism)
Underactive Parathyroid Glands (hypoparathyroidism)
Video: Underactive Parathyroid Glands (hypoparathyroidism)
Video: Parathyroid Glands and Hyperparathyroidism: Amazing Animation. 2023, February

Underactive parathyroid glands

An underactive parathyroid gland leads to a reduced release of parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid glands produce this hormone, which has a major influence on the calcium balance. The calcium level in the blood falls due to the reduced secretion, and there is a calcium deficiency in the body. A hypofunction can occur, for example, after operations in which the parathyroid glands are (must) removed.

Calcium is essential for many processes in the body. In addition to bones, it is necessary for teeth and for a number of biological functions such as muscle contraction (heart activity), excitability of the nerves and much more.

The four approximately lentil-sized parathyroid glands (Parathyroideae) are located on the back of the thyroid gland (glandula thyroidea). This in turn lies in the throat just below the larynx on the front wall of the trachea.


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  • What are the causes of underactive parathyroid glands?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • How is the diagnosis made?
  • How is the treatment carried out?
  • Whom can I ask?

What are the causes of underactive parathyroid glands?

Underactive parathyroid glands occur in adults as a result of thyroid surgery, surgery of the parathyroid glands (partial removal or removal) or other surgical interventions in the neck and head area (e.g. cancer). Calcium levels are monitored during these operations to avoid complications. It also occurs in certain autoimmune diseases (e.g. the rarely occurring APECED syndrome). Genetic defects in infants and young children can also be the cause. In very rare cases, there may be other causes - e.g. a magnesium deficiency. A subfunction rarely occurs.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary in severity - from none to barely noticeable signs to life-threatening symptoms in the case of pronounced calcium deficiency. The calcium deficiency is noticeable through:

  • Muscle twitching and spasms, so-called hypocalcemic tetany (with special signs such as the paws of the hands and equinus feet, sensory disorders)
  • Chvostek sign, Trousseau sign,
  • Irritability, anxiety, restlessness, depression,
  • Long-term intracranial calcifications, cataracts, tooth development disorders, dry skin, brittle hair, hair loss, etc.

Tetany and severe convulsions (e.g. spasm of the glottis of the larynx, called laryngospasm) and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) are life-threatening symptoms. The rescue must be called immediately (144)!

How is the diagnosis made?

Diagnosis is based on anamnesis (e.g. information on operations in the neck area) and laboratory tests (e.g. calcium, parathyroid hormone, phosphate levels, vitamin D) - depending on the cause and severity, various other tests can be carried out, such as CT, checking kidney function, EKG as well as ophthalmological examinations to clarify any damage.

How is the treatment carried out?

The treatment is intended to normalize the calcium level in the blood, and treat symptoms and causes or possibly underlying diseases. This is done by giving:

  • Calcium (intravenously if symptoms are severe, otherwise in tablet form)
  • active vitamin D.

Regular check-ups are carried out. Any damage or illnesses (e.g. kidney failure) or magnesium deficiency, for example, are also treated.

Whom can I ask?

Contact points are:

  • Family doctor
  • Specialist in paediatrics and adolescent medicine
  • Specialist in internal medicine (specializing in endocrinology)
  • in the hospital institutes or departments of internal medicine (endocrinology)

Other specialists can be involved.

Call the ambulance immediately in an emergency (144)!

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