Symptoms and causes

The parathyroid glands are four small glands behind the thyroid.

What is it?

The parathyroid glands are four small glands located in the neck, behind the thyroid. The parathyroid glands produce the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which plays a role in the regulation of the calcium and phosphate balance in our body.

Which problems
can occur?

Primary hyperparathyroidism

This condition is caused by a dominant parathyroid gland that autonomously produces too much parathyroid hormone, causing calcium levels to rise in the body. It is rare for multiple parathyroid glands to work excessively at the same time. Frequent symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • thirst
  • nausea
  • dehydration
  • concentration problems
  • bone pain

The treatment consists of a simple follow-up or surgical procedure in which the causal parathyroid gland is removed. It often takes a lot of blood, urine and imaging tests to reach an accurate diagnosis.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism

Excessive action of a parathyroid gland in response to another cause such as:

  • vitamin D deficiency
  • poor kidney function
  • too low an intake of calcium
  • a calcium deficiency due to an absorption problem after gastric bypass surgery...

Correct diagnosis and therapy often require a thorough approach to the underlying cause.

Hypoparathyroidism

Insufficient functioning of the parathyroid gland, usually as a result of a thyroid surgery in which the parathyroid glands were damaged. The symptoms are often tingling in hands and/or feet and muscle cramps. Usually this condition is of a temporary nature, only rarely do we see a permanent hypoparathyroidism requiring treatment with calcium and active vitamin D.

Cancer of the parathyroid gland

Rare condition in which hyperparathyroidism (excessive action of the parathyroid gland) is diagnosed.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Endocrinology

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Boer Mirra