An important part of your body you need to know about is your parathyroid glands and the parathyroid hormone or PTH it releases. Knowing how the parathyroid hormone functions helps you understand how important it is to your body.
Here’s a little information about this hormone to keep you aware of its significance.
In this article:
- What Does the Parathyroid Hormone Do?
- How Does the Parathyroid Hormone Raise Blood Calcium Levels?
- The Importance of Calcium in the Body
- Parathyroid Disorders
- Parathyroid Hormone Test
- Why Would Your Doctor Recommend a Parathyroid Hormone Test?
- What to Expect from the Test
- Are You Going to Need Other Types of Tests to Check Your Parathyroid Hormone?
- Understanding Parathyroid Adenoma
- Having Parathyroid Disease Can Be Lethal Over Time
- What Is the Success Rate of Parathyroid Surgery?
Everything You Need to Know About Parathyroid Hormone
What Does the Parathyroid Hormone Do?
Intact parathyroid hormone regulates the calcium in your body, usually by increasing levels where it is low. It is secreted into the blood and continues to circulate your body to help improve the level of calcium in certain organs, such as the:
- Intestine – Your parathyroid hormone circulates to your intestines to increase calcium absorption from your food intake.
- Kidneys – This hormone passes through your kidneys to properly regulate the amount of calcium in your urine by trying to decrease the amount of calcium loss. It also helps boost the production of vitamin D in your kidneys.
- Bones – Most of the time, your parathyroid hormone is releasing calcium into your bloodstream from the large calcium stores inside your bones. This helps regulate your bone structure by disallowing the formation of a new bone.
When there is too much calcium in the body, your parathyroid cells cease to release any hormones. The absence of the parathyroid hormone helps your body lower its calcium levels to normal.
How Does the Parathyroid Hormone Raise Blood Calcium Levels?
When the parathyroid glands release their hormones, your bones release calcium to raise the mineral’s levels in the blood. The calcium levels in the bones remain the same under normal conditions.
If there are too many parathyroid hormones, your bones continue to release calcium, making it too high for the blood and too low for the bones. This process can lead to osteoporosis, which increases your risk of bone fractures.
The parathyroid hormone also increases calcium in the blood through your intestines. The presence of the parathyroid hormone makes the lining of the intestine more efficient at obtaining calcium from the diet.
The Importance of Calcium in the Body
Calcium makes your bones strong and provides energy for your muscular and nervous systems. Aside from that, calcium is the only mineral that has its own regulatory system through the parathyroid glands.
When there is a spike of calcium in the blood, personality changes occur, and you may experience symptoms that affect your nervous system like depression. Having a parathyroid disease is not just about the risk of developing kidney stones and osteoporosis but also about you feeling “normal.”
There are some cases when the parathyroid glands are not functioning properly. This may lead to unbalanced levels of the parathyroid hormone and different parathyroid disorders such as:
- Hyperparathyroidism – This happens when your parathyroid levels are too high. In this case, your calcium levels may be raised too high as well, and you may be diagnosed with hypercalcemia.
- Primary hyperparathyroidism – You may be diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism if there is too much parathyroid hormone in your body. This high amount of PTH is located in your intestines.
- Secondary hyperparathyroidism – When you’re suffering from chronic hypocalcemia or low levels of calcium, your body continues to produce PTH to an excessive degree. This may lead to secondary hyperparathyroidism.
- Tertiary hyperparathyroidism – When your long-term secondary hyperparathyroidism develops into a continuous PTH secretion, regardless of your calcium levels, it causes tertiary hyperparathyroidism and hypercalcemia.
- Hypoparathyroidism – This is a scarce parathyroid condition. Low amounts of PTH in your body usually lead to hypocalcemia but may be treated with calcium and vitamin D oral supplements.
Parathyroid Hormone Test
If you want to make sure your parathyroid hormone levels are normal, you may take a PTH blood test. This test tries to measure the amount of PTH in your blood.
Moreover, this test may show if you have any parathyroid disorders. To make this test more accurate, you may also test the calcium and phosphorus levels in your blood.
Why Would Your Doctor Recommend a Parathyroid Hormone Test?
The blood test can help your physician determine if the abnormal calcium levels are due to parathyroid glands. If the results show that the parathyroid level is just enough for your calcium level, there is another reason why there is an abnormality with the calcium levels.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low or high calcium levels, your doctor will most likely recommend this test. Signs for too much calcium in the blood are as follows:
- Kidney stones
- Bone pain
- Muscle aches
- Peeing a lot
- Excessive thirst
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms for low calcium levels include:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Numbness or tingling in your legs, arms, and around your mouth
- Muscle spasms
- Moodiness and depression
What to Expect from the Test
Before taking the test, your doctor may advise you to stop taking supplements and other medications the day before or during the day of the test.
During the test, a medical expert takes a blood sample, usually from a vein in one of your arms. They send the sample to their lab to measure the parathyroid hormone, minerals, calcium, and other substances.
The parathyroid hormone normal range depends on the lab doing the test and is measured in picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). The three forms of results are as follows:
- Intact molecule: 10-65 pg/mL
- C-terminal: 50-330 pg/mL
- N-terminal: 8-24 pg/mL
The results can take several days before you see them. If the cause of your high parathyroid hormones is not overactive parathyroid, other potential causes include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Low calcium levels not related to parathyroid
- Low vitamin D
Other causes of a low parathyroid hormone are:
- Low magnesium levels
- Autoimmune diseases
- High calcium levels
- Surgery for thyroid disease
- Iron overload
Are You Going to Need Other Types of Tests to Check Your Parathyroid Hormone?
You might need more tests depending on the results of your parathyroid hormone levels.
For example, if your calcium is low but your parathyroid hormone level is high, it can be that your parathyroid glands are functioning normally. When this happens, your physician may screen your magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels to check if they are causing an effect on your calcium levels.
If your parathyroid hormone level is above normal and your calcium is high, you may experience symptoms of hyperparathyroidism. Your doctor may ask you to undergo an x-ray and other imaging tests to check your parathyroid glands.
If you have a mild condition, and you are not experiencing symptoms like weak bones and kidney problems, your physician may recommend monitoring your parathyroid hormone and calcium levels regularly. They may also prescribe you medications that raise the sensitivity of a calcium-sensing receptor in your blood.
Surgery may not be suggested at least for some time.
Understanding Parathyroid Adenoma
Most patients with parathyroid disease only have one gland problematic gland, usually with a tumor called parathyroid adenoma.
Parathyroid Adenoma Definition: This condition involves having a benign tumor in one of the parathyroid glands, which causes the affected gland to produce more hormones.
This can interfere with the phosphorus and calcium balance in the body and may lead to overactive parathyroid. Your doctor can only determine a bad parathyroid gland if they examine each gland.
The tumor is usually about an olive or peanut size. If it is a decade or older, it can grow into the size of a grape but is non-cancerous. There is no clear reason why the tumor develops in one of the glands, but many hyperparathyroidism patients experience having one or two glands developing into tumors.
Having Parathyroid Disease Can Be Lethal Over Time
All types of parathyroid disease can be life-threatening as time passes. It does not get better on its own or stay the same, and it does not mean your calcium levels increase.
The disease is developing and can cause damage to some parts of the body if the parathyroid gland produces excessive hormones long term. This also means the tumor in the affected gland gets bigger over time, producing more hormones.
One best option to get rid of the disease is to remove the tumor through surgery, despite not being cancerous.
What Is the Success Rate of Parathyroid Surgery?
A surgeon’s experience in operating parathyroid disease also matters. This does not mean that a doctor who has experience operating the thyroid glands is skilled enough to take surgery involving the parathyroid.
In other words, you need to look into the type of surgery being done and the skills and experience of the surgeon performing the procedure to get a higher success rate.
Furthermore, just as much as your body needs your thyroid for regulation, your parathyroid glands also regulate certain nutrients throughout your body. The parathyroid hormone released into your bloodstream regulates your calcium levels throughout the other organs.
Your PTH levels help make sure your body’s calcium content isn’t too high or too low, as well as properly regulating which organs it goes to.
What other interesting facts about the parathyroid hormone can you share with us? Do you know anyone with a parathyroid disorder? What are the signs and symptoms they experienced? Share what you know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 30, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.