Parathyroid Disorders We Treat

There are four parathyroid glands in the neck, located behind the thyroid gland. Typically, the parathyroid glands are as small as a grain of rice.

Even though the parathyroid and thyroid glands are located near each other and have similar names, they are not related in any other way. Parathyroid disorders are specific to the parathyroid glands and have nothing to do with the thyroid.

If you need care for parathyroid disease, it’s important to seek out a doctor with specific expertise in this area. At Henry Ford Health System, our parathyroid experts have specialized training. This enables them to accurately diagnose and effectively treat all types of parathyroid gland disorders.

What do the parathyroid glands do?

The parathyroid glands’ job is to control calcium levels in the blood, bones and throughout the body. Calcium is responsible for regulating several functions in the body: it strengthens bones, helps muscles contract and keeps your brain working properly. The parathyroid glands help control calcium levels by producing parathyroid hormone (PTH).

If one or more of your parathyroid glands produces too much PTH, it results in excess calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia). This can lead to other health problems, including:

  • Bone weakening and osteoporosis: PTH takes calcium from the bones and moves it into the blood. Over time, this can lead to bone weakening and osteoporosis.
  • Kidney stones: Excess calcium in your blood eventually goes through your kidneys. This can worsen kidney function and increase your risk of kidney stones.
  • Cardiovascular disease: High calcium levels can lead to problems with your heart and blood vessels.
  • Other physical and mental symptoms: High calcium levels can sometimes cause bone and muscle aches and pains, mood problems, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, heartburn and mental fogginess.

Types of parathyroid disorders

Hyperparathyroidism describes any condition in which the parathyroid glands make high levels of PTH. Types of hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism: Primary hyperparathyroidism  results from a growth on one or more of the parathyroid glands. The enlarged gland(s), usually a noncancerous tumor, produces too much PTH, leading to high calcium levels.
  • Secondary hyperparathyroidism: This is the most common cause of hyperparathyroidism. Most frequently, vitamin D deficiency affects the balance of calcium in your body. The parathyroid glands respond to the calcium imbalance by producing more parathyroid hormone. In some cases, taking a vitamin D supplement can help restore proper balance. This type of hyperparathyroidism can also result from kidney disease.
  • Tertiary hyperparathyroidism: This condition can happen after a kidney transplant, but it’s very rare. Surgery to remove one or more parathyroid glands is sometimes necessary.
  • Parathyroid cancer: In extremely rare cases, a cancerous growth in the parathyroid glands can cause hyperparathyroidism.
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