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Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands: Posterior (Back) View  
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Definition  

The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized glands. They are located next to the thyroid gland in the neck. The glands secrete the parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH helps to regulate the level of calcium in the blood.

In hypoparathyroidism, there is not enough PTH secreted. This causes low levels of calcium in the blood. Low blood calcium is known as hypocalcemia.

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Causes  

Hypoparathyroidism may be caused by:

  • Removal of the parathyroid glands
  • Underlying autoimmune disorders
  • Absence of the parathyroid glands at birth
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands
  • Genetics conditions such as DiGeorge syndrome
  • Magnesium deficiency due to alcoholism, and/or malnutrition
  • Other causes, such as metal overload from iron, magnesium, or aluminium

In some cases, a cause cannot be found.

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Risk Factors  

Factors that increase your chances of hypoparathyroidism include:

  • Multiple autoimmune disorders
  • Thyroid or parathyroid surgery
  • Family history of hypoparathyroidism
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Symptoms  

Many patients with hypoparathyroidism will have not symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they may include:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps or twitching
  • Pain
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Tingling around the mouth, fingers, and toes
  • Excessive nervousness
  • Loss of memory
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision due to cataracts
  • Thin, brittle nails
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Seizures
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your doctor may need to test your body fluids. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine test

Your doctor may need pictures of your body structures. This can be done with:

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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation  

Calcium and vitamin D will usually be taken indefinitely. They are often taken by mouth.

Calcium may be given by injection. This is done when immediate symptom relief is needed.

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Prevention  

There are no current guidelines to prevent hypoparathyroidism.