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Primary Hyperparathyroidism

What is primary hyperparathyroidism?

Primary hyperparathyroidism is a metabolic disorder in which one (or more) of the parathyroid glands produces too much parathyroid hormone, which can result in the loss of bone tissue. Primary hyperparathyroidism affects about 100,000 people in the US each year, and is more prevalent in women than in men.

A function of the parathyroid hormone is to keep blood-calcium levels from going too low by releasing calcium from bones, conserving calcium that would be excreted by the kidneys, and increasing calcium absorption from food. When the hormone overacts, the result is a rise in the blood-calcium level.

When one parathyroid gland becomes enlarged, the condition is called adenoma. When more than one becomes enlarged, the condition is called hyperplasia. Both of these conditions are benign (non-cancerous).

Too much parathyroid hormone causes too much calcium to be released from bone.

What causes primary hyperparathyroidism?

In some cases, no cause can be identified. Some known causes include benign (non-cancerous) tumors on the parathyroid glands, or enlargement of the glands.

Treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism:

Specific treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Surgery to remove the affected gland may be performed. Treatment may include continual monitoring with bone densitometry to reveal loss of bone tissue, and to determine if surgery may be a necessary treatment.