Like the thyroid, the parathyroid is a gland in the neck that produces hormones. In this case, it regulates the levels of calcium in the body. There are four parathyroid glands total, located on the rear of the thyroid gland. They are about the size of a grain of rice.
As with the thyroid gland, the parathyroid is subject to similar problems involving over- or under-production of hormones. When too much hormone is produced, an excess of calcium builds up in the blood. The condition, known as hyperparathyroidism, can cause osteoporosis, low energy, fatigue, abdominal pain, kidney stones, depression, loss of concentration, bone and joint pain, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, headaches, heart palpitations, acid reflux, nausea, and vomiting.
Too little parathyroid hormone results in low calcium levels in the blood, coupled with an increase in phosphorous. The condition, called hypoparathyroidism, is marked by a tingling sensation in the fingertips, toes, and lips; muscle pain; weakness or fatigue; dry skin; anxiety; headaches; depression; memory loss; hair loss; and muscle spasms.
Causes & Treatment
Parathyroid conditions can be caused by a number of different factors. Accidental damage of the glands, or removal during surgery, is the most common cause of too much or too little hormone production. In some people, the parathyroid glands aren’t present at birth, or don’t work properly. Autoimmune disorders can cause your immune system to attack the glands. Radiation therapy for cancer or hyperthyroidism can destroy the parathyroid glands, and low levels of magnesium in the blood can affect the way they function.
Treatment depends on which type of parathyroid disorder you are experiencing. Hyperparathyroidism is usually treated surgically, while hypoparathyroidism responds well to calcium and Vitamin D supplements.