Calcium Disorders in Adults

woman with joint pain from calcium disorder.
Calcium disorders in adults are evident when a person has either too much or too little calcium in their blood.  These conditions cause a variety of symptoms which, if left untreated, can be debilitating as in the case of osteoporosis, or even life threatening.

Types of Calcium Disorders

There are two types of calcium disorders, hypocalcemia and hypercalcemia.   Hypocalcemia means there is less than normal calcium in the blood.  Hypercalcemia means there is greater than normal calcium in the blood. Since bones are made up of calcium, bone related conditions can develop.  Osteoporosis, for example, is a result of hypocalcemia.  Paget’s Disease of the Bone is a result of hypercalcemia.

Symptoms of Calcium Disorders 

The signs symptoms of calcium disorders range from nonexistent to severe.  The following chart lists the most common symptoms of calcium disorders.

Hypocalcemia

  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Depression
  • Fractures
  • Muscle cramps and twitching
  • Numbness and tingling in hands, feet and face
  • Seizures
  • Slow growing hair
  • Weak and brittle nails

Hypercalcemia

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Confusion, forgetfulness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Fractures and bone pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Spine abnormalities

Causes of Calcium Disorders

As an individual ages, they become more susceptible to calcium disorders. The following causes may be related to aging or a variety of other factors.

Hypocalcemia

  • Blood disorders (including leukemia)
  • Dietary intolerance to calcium-rich foods
  • Diet inclusive of caffeine and phosphates found in soda
  • Genetic/ hereditary factors
  • Hormonal changes
  • Some medications
  • Poor calcium intake
  • Vitamin D or magnesium deficiency

Hypercalcemia

  • Cancer
  • Dehydration
  • Genetic/ hereditary factors
  • Immobility/ sedentary lifestyle
  • Kidney failure
  • Lung diseases
  • Other diseases (tuberculosis, sarcoidosis)
  • Overactive parathyroid glands (hyperparathyroidism)
  • Some medications

More about Hypeparathyroidism

The most common cause of hypercalcemia is hyperparathyroidism, a condition caused by overactive parathyroid glands. There are four tiny parathyroid glands located behind thyroid which is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck.

When these glands are normal, they control the release of the parathyroid hormone (PTH) into your blood. In the case of hyperparathyroidism, the parathyroid glands release too much PTH into the blood.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis

For both hypocalcemia and hypercalcemia, the diagnosis is done through a physical examination, a health and family history review and blood tests. While the diagnosis method is similar, the treatments are vastly different.

man drinking water.Hypocalcemia Treatment

It is important to include sufficient amounts of calcium in one’s diet to prevent hypocalcemia.

Hypocalcemia treatments may be as simple as a change in diet that includes more dairy, greens or other calcium rich foods like red beans and sardines. Another treatment is to take a calcium supplement along with a Vitamin D supplement, which is necessary for proper calcium absorption. In severe cases, a calcium IV or oral medication may be helpful to decrease more serious symptoms.

Hypercalcemia Treatment

Treatments will vary depending on the severity and the cause of the hypercalcemia. In mild cases, the physician may focus on simple steps like
ensuring proper diet and hydration while carefully monitoring the kidneys and bones. In more severe cases, existing medications may be modified and new medications prescribed.

Interestingly, hypercalcemia may be caused by one of 25 different diseases. Treating the underlying diseases will, in effect, treat hypercalcemia.

Because the most severe cases of hypercalcemia are caused by hyperparathyroidism, surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid may be necessary. Typically, only one of the four parathyroid glands will need to be surgically removed.

Other Conditions

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition where the calcium in the bones is released and not sufficiently replaced.  When calcium is not replaced there is a loss of bone density which causes a weakening of the bones making them brittle and prone to fractures and breaks.

Paget’s Disease of the Bone 

Paget’s Disease of the Bone is similar to osteoporosis wherein the natural cycle of the bone rejuvenation is disrupted.  In this case, the body produces too much bone too quickly causing bone pain and misshapen bones.

Endocrinology Specialists

If untreated, more severe conditions can transpire.  For example, if your bones continue to release calcium into your blood, you can develop the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures, spinal column curvature and loss of height.  Other conditions include kidney stones, renal failure, nervous system problems and heart arrhythmia.  

The doctors at Rocky Mountain Diabetes Center are endocrinology experts and highly trained to identify and effectively treat calcium disorders. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions above, call Rocky Mountain Diabetes for an appointment or fill out the form below.  

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