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Bone Pain in Patients With Hyperparathyroidism

written by: Mindy Baca • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 4/24/2011

Too much parathyroid hormone in your system can wreak havoc on your bones. Find out more about bone pain in hyperparathyroidism and what can be done to treat it.

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    Introduction

    Hyperparathyroidism is a condition characterized by excessive production of parathyroid hormone (PTH). According to the National Institutes of Health, hyperparathyroidism is classified into two types: primary hyperparathyroidism and secondary hyperparathyroidism. In primary hyperparathyroidism, one or more parathyroid gland produces more parathyroid than needed. In secondary hyperparathyroidism, the excess hormone production is the body’s attempt to correct low blood calcium levels. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder have an increased risk of developing some forms of cancer. Bone pain in hyperparathyroidism is a common complaint.

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    Parathyroids

    The parathyroids are very small glands located in the neck on the backside of the thyroid. Even though the parathyroid glands are located on the thyroid, they serve a very different function. Parathyroid hormone serves the important role of regulating calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. When blood calcium levels are low, the PTH facilitates more calcium to be taken from the bones. Most people are more familiar with hearing that calcium and phosphorus are needed for healthy bones and teeth, but it is also true that muscles and nerves in the body will not work properly if there is too much or too little of these minerals in our blood.

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    Hyperparathyroidism

    Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands produce an excessive amount of parathyroid hormone. In most cases, the development of primary hyperparathyroidism results when one or more of the parathyroid glands becomes enlarged or develops a benign tumor. Primary hyperparathyroidism impairs the ability of the parathyroid glands to regulate PTH in the body, according to Medline Plus. The enlarged gland produces too much PTH, causing hypercalcemia, or high blood calcium levels. Bone pain in hyperparathyroidism results when too much calcium is removed from the bones and is a long-term complication of hypercalcemia.

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    Bone Pain

    One way PTH regulates calcium levels is by breaking down bones to increase calcium levels in the blood. Hyperparathyroidism can cause so much bone loss that the bones become porous. Patients with porous bones are said to suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures and may cause bones to ache and hurt. Fractures resulting from osteoporosis are also painful.

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    Treatment

    Appropriate treatment for hyperparathyroidism varies, based on the cause and severity of the disorder, and should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Severe cases of primary hyperparathyroidism that meet pre-established guidelines may require removal of the abnormal parathyroid gland or glands through a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Removal of the affected parathyroid glands cures primary hyperparathyroidism.

    If you suffer from bone pain from hyperparathyroidism, your physician may prescribe medication known as bisphosphonates. According to the Cleveland clinic, bisphosphonates are being evaluated for use in hyperparathyroidism. Bisphosphonates prevent loss of bone mass by preventing the breakdown of bones by the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, major improvements in bone density levels are typically seen within 1 to 4 years of parathyroid gland removal.