Too much calcium in your blood can be a sign of hypercalcemia. Read this article to know more about the causes, symptoms, and risk factors.
Calcium is the basic constituent of the body, which is essential for the normal functioning of organs, cells, muscles, and nerves. It is also necessary for blood clotting and the health of bone. All the vital components should be present in the right amount. Abnormal levels, either decrease or increase in the levels of calcium can cause illness in the body. Hypercalcemia makes it difficult for the body to carry out its normal functions. Extremely high levels of calcium can be dangerous.
When there is hypercalcemia, there is excess calcium in the bloodstream, and your body would not regulate your calcium level normally. Let us know the most important causes of hypercalcemia.
The parathyroid glands are small glands located behind the thyroid gland. They are four in number and are located in the neck. The function of these glands is to control the production of the parathyroid hormone. Thereby, the calcium level in the blood gets influenced. PTH is the parathormone secreted by the parathyroid glands. It helps the body in controlling the calcium coming into the bloodstream right from the intestines, kidneys, and also the bones. Usually, parathormone increases when the calcium level in the blood decreases. When the calcium level increases, parathormone decreases. When the calcium levels exceed, the body can also produce calcitonin from the thyroid gland. When your parathyroid glands become overly active, it releases a huge amount of parathormone. This, in turn, leads to hyperparathyroidism. As a result, calcium imbalance happens, and the body cannot achieve the balance on its own. This causes hypercalcemia. It is common in women over 50 years of age.
Consuming too much vitamin D or calcium in the form of dietary supplements can raise your calcium level. Excessive use of calcium carbonate components can also lead to high calcium levels.
Certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, increase the risk of hypercalcemia. Blood cancer is also known to cause hypercalcemia.
Some medications, such as diuretics, can produce hypercalcemia. This happens due to the severe fluid diuresis, leading to loss of body water. This contributes to an excess concentration of calcium in the blood. Lithium causes more parathormone to be released in the blood.
Granulomatous diseases, such as tuberculosis and sarcoidosis, are well-known lung diseases that are known to cause vitamin D levels to rise in the body. This causes more calcium absorption to take place. This increases the calcium level in the blood.
The clinical features presented by hypercalcemia patients depend on the organ that is involved. They are:
1.Neurological- Fatigue, altered mental state-coma, posterior leukoencephalopathy.
2.Gastrointestinal- Nausea, vomiting, constipation, pancreatitis, peptic ulcer.
3. Cardiovascular- Short QT interval, ST-segment mimic myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmia, and hypertension.
4.Renal- Diabetic nephrogenic insipidus and acute kidney injury.
The symptoms of hypercalcemia include:
Frequent urination and feeling thirst most of the time.
Nausea and vomiting.
Osteoporosis. Loss of density of the cortical bone.
A decrease in appetite.
Neuromuscular effects like memory loss or irritability
Cramping and twitches.
Cardiovascular effects include hypertension.
Kidney stones and kidney failure.
Confusion or dementia.
Severe cases can lead to coma.
Your doctor will suggest a few blood tests to check the calcium level in the blood.
Chest X-rays are the best diagnostic tool to reveal lung cancer.
Mammograms will help to diagnose breast cancer.
CT scans can give a detailed image of your body.
MRI scans produce detailed images of your body’s specific organs and other structures.
The DEXA test shows bone mineral density to evaluate bone strength.
Urine tests that measure the level of calcium, protein, and other substances.
Treatment options for hypercalcemia totally depend on the severity level of the condition and the underlying causes of the conditions. The treatment options are:
If you have a mild case of hypercalcemia, you may not need immediate treatment. Finding the underlying reason is very important. You need to monitor its progress. This should be done with the help of a physician. Therefore, it is important to stick to the recommendations of your doctor, along with the follow-up. Even a minor increase in the levels of calcium can lead to kidney stones and kidney damage over time.
Hospital treatment might be needed if you have a moderate to severe type. The goal of treatment is to bring back the calcium level to normal. Treatment also aims to prevent further damage to the bones and kidneys. Common treatment options include:
Calcitonin is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It slows down the process of bone loss.
Giving intravenous supplementation of fluids can hydrate your calcium levels in the blood.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that are highly useful in the treatment of excessive vitamin D.
Loop diuretic medications can improve your kidneys to move the fluid and get rid of extra calcium. This should be performed especially if you have heart failure.
Intravenous supplementation of bisphosphonates can lower blood calcium levels by regulating bone calcium levels.
Dialysis is performed to get rid of extra calcium and waste. This is usually done if other treatment methods have failed.
Depending on your age, the functioning of the kidney, and the effects of bone, the need for surgery to remove the abnormal parathyroid glands will be decided. Different specialists will determine the method of surgical removal. This procedure cures most cases of hypercalcemia that is caused by hyperparathyroidism. You will be suggested medications from your doctor to lower your calcium level by decreasing the production of parathormone. If you have osteoporosis, your doctor might suggest some bisphosphonates to reduce the risk of fractures. If you have cancer symptoms, your doctor will discuss different options to help you determine the best ways to treat hypercalcemia as it requires a multi-disciplinary approach.
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Last reviewed at:
14 Aug 2020 - 4 min read
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