Too much calcium in blood may be due to dehydration, an underlying parathyroid disease, or even cancer. This HealthHearty article will give you a brief explanation of this problem.
The important component that makes up our teeth, nails, and the entire skeletal structure is calcium. The calcium levels in the body are regulated with the help of parathyroid glands. These are located behind the thyroid gland, in the neck. Too much calcium in blood can be attributed to some problem in the secretion of parathyroid hormone. Let us have a look at the potential causes of this condition in the following section.
The normal range for calcium in blood is about 8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL, and the excess of it is called hypercalcemia. When one or more of the four parathyroid glands become overactive, it results in an increased level of calcium in the body. There are two hormones responsible for the regulation of calcium levels in the body, parathyroid hormone and calcitonin. When the body produces less of the parathyroid hormones, it results in excessive calcium blood levels.
Under normal conditions, the thyroid gland produces calcitonin that lowers the release of calcium from the bones, thus, maintaining an optimum balance. However, in case of hypercalcemia, the body can no longer control the presence of high calcium in blood. Apart from overactive parathyroid glands, other causes include cancer, sarcoidosis, thiazide diuretics, excessive intake of calcium or vitamin D supplements, and dehydration. Sometimes a rare genetic disorder called hypocalciuric hypercalcemia may also cause this condition.
Most of the time, there are no distinctive symptoms, especially in case of mild hypercalcemia. However, if it is severe in nature, the following symptoms may be observed.
- Appetite loss
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weakness in muscles
- Mental confusion
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle twitches
- Loss of height
- Bone pain
There are many ways in which hypercalcemia can adversely affect the overall health of an individual. As you might have gauged from the symptoms listed above, high levels of calcium not only affects the physical health, but also the mental health of a person. Apart from physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, thirst, and so on, there may be symptoms such as, memory loss, depression, irritability, and even apathy. Hypercalcemia also affects your bones, with symptoms such as, fractures, bowing of the shoulders, and loss of height.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As mentioned earlier, this condition hardly displays any symptoms, therefore, most of the time, hypercalcemia is diagnosed during routine blood tests. Additional means such as the use of CT scan, chest X-ray, MRI scan, and mammogram may be done to determine the underlying cause behind high calcium levels.
Diagnosed patients need to be hospitalized until the levels are reduced to acceptable amounts. The treatment would depend upon the cause. For instance, if hypercalcemia is caused due to dehydration, intravenous fluids are administered for rehydration. On the other hand, if the cause is primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), a surgery may be done to remove the parathyroid glands to cure the condition.
Loop diuretic medications are given to the patient to flush out the excess calcium, and enable proper functioning of kidneys. Bone breakdown is inhibited by intake of intravenous bisphosphonates. Glucocorticoids are given to counter the effects of too much vitamin D in the bloodstream. Some patients are advised calcitonin to slow down bone loss. Excess waste and calcium in body is removed with the help of hemodialysis.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for an expert medical advice.