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Parathyroid disease

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Parathyroid disease

Parathyroid disease
Classification and external resources
10 9 MeSH D010279

Many conditions are associated with disorders of the function of the parathyroid gland. Parathyroid diseases can be divided into those causing hyperparathyroidism, and those causing hypoparathyroidism.[1]


Condition Calcium Parathyroid hormone
primary hyperparathyroidism high high
primary hypoparathyroidism low low
secondary hyperparathyroidism normal high
pseudohypoparathyroidism low high

Hyperparathyroidism and related conditions

The single major disease of parathyroid glands is overactivity of one or more of the parathyroid lobes, which make too much parathyroid hormone, causing a potentially serious calcium imbalance. This is called hyperparathyroidism; it leads to hypercalcemia, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and various other symptoms. Hyperparathyroidism was first described in 1925 and the symptoms have collectively become known as "moans, groans, stones, and bones." By far, the most common symptom is fatigue, but depression, memory loss, and bone aches are also very common. Primary hyperparathyroidism is relatively more common in postmenopausal women. The primary treatment for this disease is the surgical removal of the faulty gland.

If a patient has elevated calcium, several different types of tests can be used to locate the abnormal glands. The most common and most accurate test to find a parathyroid tumor is the Sestamibi scan. The Sestamibi scan does not have high resolution. Neck ultrasound has higher resolution, but requires some expertise to perform. Ultrasound's shortcomings include: it cannot determine glandular function (normal vs. hyperfunctioning) or visualize unusual locations such as retropharyngeal or mediastinal. Thin cut CT of the neck can reveal glands in locations that the ultrasound cannot evaluate well; e.g. retropharyngeal, mediastinal. These tests are ordered by an endocrinologist or a surgeon that specializes in parathyroid surgery. Often, these "localizing" tests used to "find" the bad parathyroid gland are not successful in locating which parathyroid gland has become a tumor. This often causes confusion for the patient and doctor, since the tumor was not located. This simply means the tumor was not found using these tests—it does not mean the tumor does not exist. The use of ultrasound-guided FNA, and parathyroid hormone washings can confirm the abnormal glands. For decades, it has been known that the best way to find a parathyroid tumor is through a very experienced parathyroid surgeon.

Even if a patient has a non-localizing Sestamibi scan (a negative sestamibi scan), he/she should almost always have a neck exploration to remove the tumor if he/she has high calcium levels, among other symptoms. Minimally-invasive parathyroid surgery is becoming more available, but, depending on the expertise of the surgeon, the patient may need to have a positive sestamibi scan before a minimally-invasive operation is attempted. Some of the most experienced surgeons perform mini-parathyroid surgery on all patients, but this is available only at highly specialized centers. Some patients will need both sides of their necks explored to find the dysfunctional gland(s).

Another related condition is called secondary hyperparathyroidism, or secondary HPT - common in patients with chronic kidney disease on dialysis. In secondary HPT, the parathyroid glands make too much parathyroid hormone (PTH) because the kidneys have failed, and the calcium and phosphorus are out of balance. Even though one may not have any symptoms, treating secondary HPT is important. Cinacalcet (Sensipar) is a medicine that can help treat such dialysis patients and is available by prescription only. Most experts believe that Sensipar should not be used for patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (patients that have a high calcium and are not on kidney dialysis).

Related conditions


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