Primary Hyperparathyroidism

What is Primary Hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition that raises calcium levels in the blood. Once the calcium levels are above a certain threshold (usually about 2.7 mmol/L) the condition is known as hypercalcemia. The abnormally high calcium levels are caused by the overactive secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which in turn is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumor (adenoma) in one or more of the small endocrine glands (parathyroid glands) of the neck.

Primary hyperparathyroidism is genetic, but not hereditary, in the sense that it is caused by the mutation in the parathyroid glands after birth. The condition has been found to be more prevalent in areas with high radioactivity, such as in the contamination zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This is thought to be caused by dangerously high strontium levels in the atmosphere.

Symptoms of Primary Hyperparathyroidism

It is more likely to affect women than men and the symptoms vary considerably and include:

Primary hyperparathyroidism is detected via blood tests or calcium infusions for more accurate results.

Treatment

The most common treatment is to remove the affected gland entirely via surgery. Patients with mild forms of the disease sometimes respond to hormone therapy, and there are some newly released medications that are able to limit the secretion rate of the parathyroid glands.

The main bone-related conditions associated with primary hyperparathyroidism are osteomalacia and osteitis fibrosa cystica. Osteomalacia is the term generally applied to rickets when affecting adults and has the same pathology (http://learnbones.wpengine.com/rickets-disease-in-children).

Osteitis fibrosa cystica affects the skeletal structure by increasing the rate at which bone cells are broken down, causing reduced bone density and increased likelihood of fracture. The breakdown of bone is caused by cells known as osteoclasts, which are programmed to remove living bone cells. Once Bone Disease exceeds the rate at which new bone cells are created the bone begins to degenerate.

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