Calcium is important to many body functions, including:
Nerve and brain function
Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D help manage calcium balance in the body. PTH is made by the parathyroid glands -- four small glands located in the neck behind the thyroid gland. Vitamin D is obtained when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and from dietary sources such as:
Fortified dairy products
Primary hyperparathyroidism is the most common cause of hypercalcemia. It is due to excess PTH release by the parathyroid glands. This excess occurs due to an enlargement of one or more of the parathyroid glands, or a growth (usually not cancer) on one of the glands.
Other medical conditions can also cause hypercalcemia:
Hypercalcemia affects less than 1 percent of the population. The ability to measure blood calcium since the 1960s has improved detection. Today, the condition is diagnosed at an early stage so most patients with hypercalcemia have no symptoms.
Women over age 50 are most likely to have hypercalcemia, usually due to primary hyperparathyroidism.
Treatment is aimed at the cause of hypercalcemia whenever possible. In people with primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), surgery may be needed to remove the abnormal parathyroid gland and cure the hypercalcemia.
However, if the hypercalcemia is mild, your health care provider will offer you the option of monitoring your condition closely over time.
Severe hypercalcemia that causes symptoms and requires a hospital stay is treated with the following:
Diuretic medication, such as furosemide
Drugs that stop bone breakdown and absorption by the body, such as pamidronate or etidronate (bisphosphonates)
Fluids through a vein (intravenous fluids)
How well you do depends on the cause of hypercalcemia. Patients with mild hyperparathyroidism or hypercalcemia with a treatable cause do well and usually do not have complications.
Patients with hypercalcemia due to conditions such as cancer or granulomatous disease may not do well, but this is usually due to the disease itself, rather than the hypercalcemia.
Shehzad Topiwala, MD, Chief Consultant Endocrinologist, Premier Medical Associates, The Villages, FL. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.