The parathyroid glands are small round glands at the corners of the thyroid gland within the neck. People have 3-5 parathyroid glands, with 4 being the average number. Parathyroid glands create parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium levels within the blood and bones. Additionally, the parathyroid glands aid in vitamin D production.
The main disease impacting the parathyroid glands is primary hyperparathyroidism, which happens if the glands produce excessive parathyroid hormone. The main cause of primary hyperparathyroidism is the growth of a benign tumor (a parathyroid adenoma) on a gland, which enlarges the gland.
Cancer can develop in the parathyroid glands. Parathyroid cancer is best treated surgically.
Secondary hyperparathyroidism is a fairly uncommon type of parathyroid disease, as it impacts primarily people with chronic kidney disease who are currently on dialysis. In this case, the parathyroid glands overproduce parathyroid hormone due to kidney failure, which caused the calcium in the blood to be out of balance.
Regardless of the type of parathyroid disease, high blood pressure and problems with concentration can be common. Many people with hyperparathyroidism are prone to chronic fatigue, headaches, depression, memory problems, and chronic aching bones. People with this condition may also be prone to developing gastric ulcers, pancreatitis, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.
When patients have high calcium levels, tests are done to find the abnormal gland. The Sestamibi scan uses IV injection of Tc99m MIBI and a specialized camera to highlight the parathyroid glands, which aids in identifying the adenoma in most cases.
Parathyroidectomy surgery is the most frequent and best way to deal with most of the diseases impacting the parathyroid glands. Tumors must be surgically excised. A neck exploration may be needed to locate the tumor so it can be removed. Parathyroidectomy is done while the patient is under general anesthesia. After the parathyroidectomy, the doctor may recommend that the patient takes a daily calcium supplement to maintain normal calcium levels.
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