Time for Parathyroid Surgery
Although the parathyroid glands are located on the thyroid gland, they actually produce very different hormones that control very different functions in the body. While the thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism, the parathyroid glands control the exchange of calcium between the blood and the bones.
To function, your body needs calcium available to its bloodstream. If you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body will begin to use the calcium in your bones, which can cause osteoporosis. This also occurs when the parathyroid glands are too active, a condition known as hyperparathyroidism.
When you are getting enough calcium in your diet, your parathyroid glands should get the signal not to produce more PTH (parathyroid hormone). Having a healthy amount of calcium in your bloodstream means that your body does not have to do anything to regulate and balance the calcium your body has available to it.
However, if your parathyroid gland is somehow not getting this message, it will function as if you are not getting any calcium in your diet. Because your muscles and brain need calcium for proper function and recovery, your parathyroid glands will make up for what it perceives as a lack, thereby making your bones weaker and causing some major health issues.
Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism
Most patients exhibit a number of symptoms other than brittle bones. If you have an overactive parathyroid gland, you will likely experience one or more of the following:
- Mental fogginess and/or confusion
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue and/or lethargy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hair loss
- Pain in your bones
- Decreased libido
Diagnosis and Treatment
As always, self-diagnosis is inaccurate at best and dangerous at worst. If you suspect that you have hyperparathyroidism, make an appointment with your doctor for an assessment. Your doctor will draw some of your blood and test it for PTH and calcium levels. If your levels are high, then you may have hyperparathyroidism. Your doctor will present you with some options for treatment.
If your parathyroid glands are not functioning properly, increasing the calcium in your diet will not make a difference to PTH production.
The only known treatment for hyperparathyroidism is surgery. Fortunately, because you have 4 parathyroid glands, you may only need to have 2 or 3 of them removed. You may actually even have all but half of a single parathyroid gland removed and still have functional PTH production.
Your doctor will attempt to remove only the culprit parathyroid glands so that you may be able to function normally. You will probably not need to take ongoing medication after your surgery, and you will also be at a much lower risk of developing osteoporosis.
Parathyroid surgery is minimally invasive and usually takes only 2-3 days for recovery. After that, your doctor may recommend that you take supplemental calcium for some time to build up the calcium content in your bones again.
Within a few weeks, you should be back to normal activities and feeling great again, and the scars on your neck should be minimal if they are visible at all. Basically, if you have overactive parathyroid glands, getting surgery will mean taking a few days off and may mean taking medication or calcium supplements. Failing to go through with parathyroid surgery could mean severe health problems in the short and longer term.
If you have questions about parathyroid problems and hyperparathyroidism, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.