Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition that occurs when the parathyroid glands, located in your neck, do not make enough parathyroid hormone. Parathyroid hormone helps regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. If you have hypoparathyroidism, your body has too little calcium and too much phosphorus. Hypoparathyroidism may be either inherited or acquired (from injury to the glands or, more rarely, from surgery on the thyroid gland).
Signs and Symptoms
Most symptoms of hypoparathyroidism result from having too little calcium in the blood. Signs include the following:
The following signs and symptoms often appear in children with hypoparathyroidism:
What Causes It?
There are a number of causes of hypoparathyroidism:
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing hypoparathyroidism:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will check for muscle spasms, twitching, and seizures and examine your skin for problems, such as dry skin, thinning hair, and fungal infections. In children, the health care provider will ask about and check for tooth formation and developmental progress. Your health care provider may also order blood tests to check levels of calcium, phosphate, magnesium, and parathyroid hormone.
There is no way to prevent inherited hypoparathyroidism. Thyroid and parathyroid surgery once resulted in damage to parathyroid glands, often causing hypoparathyroidism. Today's surgical techniques, however, make this much less likely.
The main treatment for hypoparathyroidism is aimed at restoring the levels of calcium in the body. If you have hypoparathyroidism, you will probably have to take calcium and vitamin D (which is required for the body to absorb calcium) supplements for the rest of your life. To treat tetany (muscle spasms), calcium will be given intravenously (IV). Your doctor may also prescribe diuretics (water pills) to prevent losing too much calcium in the urine and to reduce the amount of calcium and vitamin D needed.
It is important to get regular checkups so your doctor can monitor the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood over time.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Calcium and vitamin D supplements are the main treatment for hypoparathyroidism. Your doctor will prescribe the right dose based on your blood tests. Do not change your dose without your doctor's supervision. Your doctor will also recommend taking calcium in divided doses several times a day, to help your body absorb it properly.
Nutrition and Supplements
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms of hypoparathyroidism. Do not take supplements without your doctor's supervision.
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Foods rich in calcium include:
Your doctor may recommend you take calcium with a glass of orange juice; some forms of calcium are better absorbed in an acidic environment. You can also add acid to your diet by squeezing lemon juice over leafy greens.
Herbs are generally available as standardized dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures/liquid extracts (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Mix liquid extracts with favorite beverage. Dose for teas is 1 - 2 heaping teaspoonfuls/cup water steeped for 10 - 15 minutes (roots need longer).
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus castus) standardized extract, 20 - 40 mg daily before breakfast, for support of the parathyroid gland. Chaste tree can interact with many medications, particularly hormonal medication, as well as some hormonal conditions; speak with your physician.
Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
If hypoparathyroidism is diagnosed early, the prognosis is good. If it is not diagnosed early, complications may occur, including:
People with hypoparathyroidism require lifelong monitoring by a health care provider.
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Review Date: 1/2/2013
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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