Hypocalcemia, Adult

Hypocalcemia is low blood calcium. Calcium is important for cells to function in the body. Low blood calcium can cause a variety of symptoms and problems.

CAUSES

  • Low levels of a body protein called albumin.

  • Problems with the parathyroid glands or surgical removal of the parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands maintain the body's level of calcium.

  • Decreased production or improper use of parathyroid hormone.

  • Lack (deficiency) of vitamin D or magnesium or both.

  • Intestinal problems that interfere with nutrient absorption.

  • Alcoholism.

  • Kidney problems.

  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

  • Certain medicines.

  • Severe infections (sepsis).

  • Infiltrative diseases. With these diseases the parathyroid glands are filled with cells or substances that are not normally present. Examples include:

  • Sarcoidosis.

  • Hemachromatosis.

  • Breakdown of large amounts of muscle fiber.

  • High levels of phosphate in the body.

  • Cancer.

  • Massive blood transfusions which usually occur with severe trauma.

SYMPTOMS

  • Numbness and tingling in the fingers, toes, or around the mouth.

  • Muscle aches or cramps, especially in the legs, feet, and back.

  • Muscle twitches.

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.

  • Difficulty swallowing.

  • Changes in the sound of the voice.

  • General weakness.

  • Fainting.

  • Fast heart beats (palpitations).

  • Chest pain.

  • Irritability.

  • Difficulty thinking.

  • Memory problems or confusion.

  • Severe fatigue.

  • Changes in personality.

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • Shaking uncontrollably (seizures).

  • Coarse, brittle hair and nails.

  • Dry skin or lasting (chronic) skin diseases (psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis).

  • Clouding of the eye lens (cataracts).

  • Abdominal cramping or pain.

DIAGNOSIS

Hypocalcemia is usually diagnosed through blood tests that reveal a low level of blood calcium. Other tests, such as a recording of the electrical activity of the heart (electrocardiogram, EKG), may be performed in order to diagnose the underlying cause of the condition.

TREATMENT

Treatment for hypocalcemia includes giving calcium supplements. These can be given by mouth or by intravenous (IV) access tube, depending on the severity of the symptoms and deficiency. Other minerals (electrolytes), such as magnesium, may also be given.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Meet with a dietitian to make sure you are eating the most healthful diet possible, or follow diet instructions as directed by your caregiver.

  • Follow up with your caregiver as directed.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop chest pain.

  • You develop persistent rapid or irregular heartbeats.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • You faint.

  • You develop increased fatigue.

  • You have new swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs.

  • You develop increased muscle twitching.

  • You start to have seizures.

  • You develop confusion.

  • You develop mood, memory, or personality changes.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.