Hypercalcemia refers to the condition in which the levels of calcium in body are above normal. Excess calcium in the blood can result in various complications including kidney stones, weak bones, heart and brain related complications, etc.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia vary from none to severe and the management depends upon the underlying cause.
Regulation of Calcium in body
Calcium levels in blood are regulated by parathyroid glands mainly. These are four small glands behind the thyroid gland in neck region. Each of these glands are almost of the size of a grain of rice. Diseases involving these glands can result in disturbing the calcium balance int he body. Calcitonin released by thyroid gland helps in lowering the blood calcium levels when they go up too.
Calcium is important for not only keeping our bones strong but also is essential for normal functioning of various systems of our body. For this purpose, parathyroid glands secrete hormone that helps in enhancing calcium levels in the blood by both increasing the absorption of calcium through digestive tract and also by releasing calcium from the bones. This also makes sure that kidneys reduce the excretion of calcium and more vitamin D is activated to enhance its absorption.
Other than parathyroid hormone, calcium imbalance is also caused by conditions like certain cancers, medications, excessive calcium intake, vitamin D supplementation, certain medical disorders, etc.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia
Patients may not experience any symptoms in milk hypercalcemia. However as the condition gets severe, the symptoms may appear, affecting various parts of the body, including:
- Digestive system – causing nausea, vomiting and constipation
- Kidneys – frequent urination, excessive thirst, kidney stones
- Bones – weakening of bones
- Muscles – muscle weakness
- Brain – confusion, fatigue and lethargy
It’s important that you consult a doctor whenever you experience any of the symptoms associated with hypercalcemia to get it diagnosed and find out the underlying cause of high calcium levels in your blood.
Causes of Hypercalcemia
There is a fine balance of calcium levels in the body. Disturbance in this balance can result in hypercalcemia and result in various complications.
Hypercalcemia, high levels of calcium, is caused by several factors, including:
- Overactive parathyroid glands – thus secreting excess amount of parathyroid hormone, resulting in elevated levels of calcium in the blood.
- Cancers, including lung and breast, and their spread into the bones as meta (metastasis) increases the risk of hypercalcemia
- Immobility – bed bound people or the ones with sedentary life style run into the risk of having high calcium levels as the bones start to lose their calcium content into the blood when they’re not subject to challenge or weight for a longer period of time.
- diseases including tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, etc. can also result in hypercalcemia by elevating the levels of vitamin D in the body, resulting in increased absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal tract.
- certain medicines and supplements including lithium and vitamin D can result in hypercalcemia
- genetic – faulty calcium receptors can be hereditary and hypercalcemia can be acquired by generations due to faulty genes
- dehydration – mild or transient hypercalcemia is uaully called by dehydration, as the calcium concentration in blood rises when there is less fluid due to dehydration
These and other causes of hypercalcemia are to be diagnosed so that the underlying cause can be treated to fix the hypercalcaemia and symptoms caused by it.
Treatment of Hypercalcemia
Management of hypercalcemia depends upon the underlying cause, therefore the most important step is to diagnose the underlying cause of high calcium levels.
For mild hypercalcemia, wait and watch strategy can also be used by your doctor, giving your body time to maintain homeostasis and calcium levels through bones and kidneys and other mechanisms.
Your doctor may advice you certain medications, either orally or through intravenous route. Some patients however might need surgery, for removal of hyperactive parathyroid glands forexample, to treat high levels of calcium in their blood.