Hypercalcemia refers to a high or elevated level of calcium in the body, which can be an indicator of several health conditions. This HealthHearty article discusses some possible causes, along with the symptoms and treatment of this condition.
Calcium is a mineral which plays a pivotal role in the formation of strong bones and teeth. However, if the level of calcium in the body elevates to a significantly high level, it can cause several health problems. The normal range for blood calcium levels is 9 to 10.5 mg/dL. A significantly high calcium level or hypercalcemia can disrupt the various vital processes taking place within our body. This can eventually manifest in several clinical symptoms. Many times, an abnormally high level of calcium can also be a sign of certain diseases and disorders.
Calcium is basically found in the bones and certain muscle cells of the body. The excess of this mineral is excreted through the urine. The level of calcium in the body is regulated by two hormones – the parathyroid hormone and calcitonin. Several factors can cause the level of this mineral to rise in the body, of which the most common causes are explained below:
- An over production of the parathyroid hormone by the overactive parathyroid glands can raise the level of calcium in the body. Under normal circumstances, the parathyroid glands produce more parathyroid hormone when the level of calcium reduces in the body. On the other hand, when the level of this mineral is higher than the normal level, the parathyroid glands release less of this hormone, so as to regulate the level of calcium in the body. So, if any of the four parathyroid glands becomes overactive, it can disturb the way in which the level of calcium is regulated in the body.
- Hypercalcemia is a common problem among cancer patients, especially those who have lung and breast cancer. Even people with bone cancer have an increased risk of developing this condition.
- People who cannot mobilize due to certain diseases can also develop this condition. When a person becomes bed-bound for a prolonged period of time, the bones no longer have to bear weight, which eventually causes them to release calcium into the blood.
- Many times, granulomas, which result from an injury, infection, or inflammation of the tissues can raise the level of calcitriol (a form of vitamin D) in the body. Calcitriol stimulates the absorption of more calcium in the digestive tract, and thus raises the level of this mineral in the blood. Granulomatous diseases like tuberculosis can cause the level of calcium to elevate due to the same reason.
- It can also be caused by a rare genetic condition, known as familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia.
- In addition to these, some other possible causes are, hyperthyroidism, the presence of excessive vitamin D in the body (either due to supplementation or excess dietary intake), use of medications like lithium and thiazide diuretics, adrenal failure, kidney failure, inherited kidney or metabolic conditions, and dehydration.
Signs and Symptoms
The condition may not produce any symptom, especially if the level of calcium rises slightly. A severe case of hypercalcemia can however, produce the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
A proper treatment plan can be designed only after identifying the underlying causes. Usually, a severe case can require hospitalization of the patient, in order to bring back the calcium level to the normal range. For doing so, physicians can opt for intravenous fluid administration, diuresis, or an increase in salt intake. Additionally, they can administer calcitonin, bisphosphonates, and glucocorticoids. Surgery can be considered if abnormal parathyroid glands and adrenal gland are associated with this condition. If it is caused by cancer, then the usual treatment options available for cancer have to be employed.
The treatment of this condition depends mainly on the underlying causes or factors. Therefore, it is important to know the various causes and risk factors, in order to ensure the prompt and effective treatment of this condition. People who have an increased risk of developing hypercalcemia need to be more careful. If not treated on time, a significantly high level of calcium in the blood can lead to complications like osteoporosis, formation of kidney stones, abnormal heart rhythm, kidney failure, and nervous system dysfunction.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.