Parathyroid Disorders

Primary Hyperthyroidism

There can be several causes for overactive parathyroid glands.

The parathyroid glands produce a hormone (parathyroid hormone or PTH) to help control calcium levels in our bodies. These four, pea-sized glands (two on each side of the neck) sit on the back of the thyroid. Certain parathyroid diseases cause one or more parathyroid glands to become hyperactive, producing too much parathyroid hormone and leading to excessive calcium levels. If left untreated, this hyperparathyroidism can cause kidney damage and kidney stones and osteoporosis (weak bones).

Hyperparathyroidism is most common among women over the age of 50, but can occur in anyone. Women are three times more likely to develop this disease.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism may cause the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Bone problems, including pain and fractures
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Itchy skin
  • Kidney stones
  • Memory loss
  • Stomach ulcers or inflammation
  • Heartburn
  • Wounds that don’t heal over time

These symptoms aren’t specific to hyperparathyroidism. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor to diagnose your condition.

Types of parathyroid diseases

Hyperparathyroidism can be caused by problems with the parathyroid gland itself, or as a result of other conditions like kidney failure.

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism

    The most common parathyroid disorder, primary hyperparathyroidism, is caused by a malfunctioning parathyroid gland (or multiple glands). A growth in the gland causes it to produce too much of the parathyroid hormone. This growth is nearly always non-cancerous. However, in rare cases, primary hyperparathyroidism can be a sign of parathyroid cancer.


    The main treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism is surgery (parathyroidectomy). Surgery treats the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism, and prevents long-term complications.

    Our surgical team includes some the best parathyroid surgeons in Michigan. They use a number of advanced technologies to operate on patients safely and effectively.

  • Secondary hyperparathyroidism

    Secondary hyperparathyroidism is caused by a problem outside of the parathyroid glands. Often, that cause is a vitamin D deficiency or kidney disease. Patients whose kidneys have failed and are on dialysis can have trouble maintaining normal calcium levels in their bodies. This can cause the parathyroid glands to produce large amounts of PTH.


    If secondary hyperparathyroidism is caused by low vitamin D that can be fixed by supplementing with vitamin D pills. Some patients  with secondary hyperparathyroidism due to kidney failure may need parathyroid surgery to lower their hormone levels if they don’t respond to medication.

  • Tertiary hyperparathyroidism

    Tertiary hyperparathyroidism is a rare complication of kidney transplants. Like primary and secondary hyperparathyroidism, it results in overactive parathyroid glands – glands that produce too much hormone. However, unlike secondary hyperparathyroidism, these glands can become permanently hyperactive, requiring parathyroidectomy to avoid further problems.


    This condition is usually treated by surgically removing one or more of the parathyroid glands.

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