Most people are unaware that they have four tiny parathyroid glands in their neck. The parathyroid glands are each about the size of a grain of rice and are located near your thyroid gland, thus the name “parathyroid”. These glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates calcium metabolism in your body.
A parathyroid gland can become enlarged and overactive, causing it to release too much PTH, a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Excessive PTH release will throw your calcium metabolism out of balance. You will lose calcium from your bones, and blood calcium levels will rise. The excess calcium is released in the urine.
What Causes Hyperparathyroidism?
In hyperparathyroidism there is usually a benign overgrowth of one of the parathyroid glands. Sometimes, more than one gland can be overgrown at the same time. Occasionally all four glands can be abnormal. Most cases of hyperparathyroidism have no known cause, but there are some forms that are genetic (run in families) or can be due to kidney disease. Hyperparathyroidism is fairly common and can occur in men or women but is most common in postmenopausal women.
What are the Symptoms?
One of the most common effects of hyperparathyroidism is the loss of calcium from the bones and the development of osteoporosis. This increases the risk of bone fractures, especially as you get older. Because of excessive calcium in the urine, painful kidney stones can form. Other common symptoms include bone or muscle pain, fatigue, weakness, “brain fog,” depression, heartburn, and constipation. Often, symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can be quite mild and vague, making it difficult to diagnose.
How is Hyperparathyroidism Diagnosed?
Hyperparathyroidism is often diagnosed when a high blood calcium level is noted on routine blood tests. “It is important to know that even a slightly high calcium level could be due to hyperparathyroidism,” says board certified general surgeon Dr. John Abikhaled. “Further testing should be pursued, including checking a PTH level, and scheduling an evaluation by an endocrinologist.” Austin Surgeons works closely with endocrinologists to care for patients with hyperparathyroidism.
Surgery for Hyperparathyroidism at Austin Surgeons
Surgery is the only way to cure hyperparathyroidism. At Austin Surgeons, we can help determine if surgery is appropriate for you. We are experts at performing minimally invasive radioguided parathyroidectomy (MIRP) surgery to remove the overactive gland. “Our priority is to perform a safe and effective operation that allows a smooth recovery” observes Dr. Abikhaled.
How Long is Recovery?
The operation is usually a day-surgery procedure. Patients can often return to work (depending on job requirements) and resume normal light activity the next day. There will be a small one-inch incision on the front of your neck that heals very quickly. There is usually only mild pain and swelling after the operation.