Diseases of the parathyroid glands

Bringing hormones into harmony

The parathyroid glands are hardly bigger than a lentil – and are nevertheless vital: if they do not do their job, this often manifests itself in muscle cramps. But, if they are overactive, there is the risk of fatigue, depression and high blood pressure. Often, only an operation can help then.

At Schoen Clinic, we specialise in diseases of the parathyroid glands. Our experienced consultants offer you various, effective therapy methods to bring your hormone balance back into equilibrium.

Causes & symptoms

Parathyroid glands – under- and overactivity

The parathyroid glands are the sole producers of a hormone that is important for regulating the calcium balance: the parathyroid hormone controls calcium excretion through the kidneys, promotes calcium uptake in the intestines and can extract calcium from the bones if necessary. The parathyroid hormone requires vitamin D to perform its functions. Calcium is needed to build teeth and bones. But it is also necessary for muscles and nerves to function properly. As with the thyroid gland, the parathyroid glands can also suffer from pathological over- or underactivity.

Causes: How under- or overactivity of the parathyroid glands develops

Causes of underactivity
The most common cause is an operation on the thyroid gland, during which the parathyroid glands were also removed. However, even minor impairments in the vascular supply of the parathyroid gland can lead to underactivity.

Causes of overactivity
In four out of five cases, the cause is – mostly benign – cell proliferation, which leads to an increased release of parathyroid hormone. Only very rarely are the tumours malignant.

Parathyroid glands: Symptoms of under- or overactivity

Symptoms of underactivity
The long-term consequences of untreated parathyroid underactivity are serious: severe muscle cramps throughout the body or abdominal cramps. The eyes can also be affected, parts of the brain and the heart muscle can “calcify”.

Symptoms of overactivity
The classic complaints are summarised as “stones, bones and stomach pain”: If the parathyroid hormone level in the blood is too high, too much calcium enters the blood. Stones form in the kidneys and gall bladder. The bones are weakened (osteoporosis) and the mucous membrane of the stomach hurts because of increased acid formation in the stomach.

Further symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Heartburn 
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression (“sadness hormone”)

Diagnostics

How we diagnose diseases of the parathyroid glands

Today, the parathormone level in the blood can be measured with simple tests in order to detect the disease at an early stage. To be completely sure, it is also possible to check the calcium excretion in the urine and take a scintigram. Another way to find the enlarged glands are ultrasound examinations.