Primary Hyperparathyroidism Facts

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Primary hyperparathyroidism is a condition of the parathyroid gland or glands that causes an excess release of (PTH), or parathyroid hormone. It is considered primary because the cause is not linked to other abnormalities or disease within the body but is directly caused by the gland itself. Each year, 100,000 individuals will be newly diagnosed with this disorder. Although there are numerous causes, this condition can usually be successfully treated.

What Causes Primary Hyperparathyroidism?

There are many common causes of this disorder. Enlargement of the parathyroid gland is one of the most common. Currently, there is no indication that heredity plays a role. According to the National Institute of Health, around 85% of the cases of hyperparathyroidism is caused by an adenoma, a benign tumor that may be found on the glands. Cancer of any one or more glands is an extremely uncommon cause of this disorder. In other cases, the over production of PTH is caused by the enlargement of multiple parathyroid glands. The risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism gradually increases with age and is more likely in females than males.

What are the Effects of the Disorder?

The secretions of the parathyroid gland are primarily responsible for maintaining blood calcium levels, absorption, excretion, and the release of calcium from various bodily structures. Calcium within the body is not limited to bones and teeth, but play an important role in the nervous system and allow for muscle function. With hyperparathyroidism, blood calcium levels rise, causing a systemic response. More calcium may be lost from the bones and teeth, the GI tract may absorb higher levels of calcium. In addition to altering other chemical balances within the body, kidney stones may also result from increased levels of calcium within the urinary system.

Treatments for Primary Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is most often treated by either removing the overproductive parathyroid gland or by the use of medication. In most patients, surgery is recommended. Calcimimetics, is the class of drug used to treat such disorders but is mainly used for patients suffering from secondary hyperparathyroidism. Although calcimimetics has not been approved for treatment of primary hyperparathyroidism, it is sometimes used if the condition was caused by cancer of the parathyroid gland. In mild cases where symptoms are not present, treatment may not be necessary.


National Institute of Health. 2009. 19, November.