The parathyroid is a group of neck glands (four total) that produce a hormone (PTH) to regulate calcium and phosphorous levels in the body.
Bone and tooth development and strength are dependent on calcium. As with the thyroid gland, too much or too little PTH causes a variety of medical problems.
Hyperparathyroidism occurs when too much PTH is secreted into the bloodstream. This creates an imbalance of high calcium levels and low phosphorous levels. Symptoms include:
- Kidney stones
- Bone and joint pain
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of appetite
The cause may be linked to a benign tumor or enlarged parathyroid gland. Surgery is the preferred treatment for hyperparathyroidism.
When too little PTH is produced, calcium levels in the blood drop while phosphorous levels rise. This condition is known as hypoparathyroidism and causes:
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Tingling sensations in the fingers, toes and lips.
Injury to the parathyroid glands, endocrine disorders and genetic conditions are the most common causes of hypoparathyroidism. Calcium carbonate and vitamin D supplements are given to restore the proper balance of calcium and phosphorous in the body.
Whether to proceed with parathyroid surgery depends on a number of factors including the you age, how much calcium is in the blood and the extent of symptoms. There are several different procedures for surgical removal of the parathyroid glands. The approach utilized depends on which glands are affected. You will receive a general anesthetic, and the surgeon makes an incision in the neck to examine the glands and determine which ones require removal.
In a minimally invasive parathyroidectomy, the diseased glands are removed through a small slit in the neck.
A video-assisted parathyroidectomy utilizes two small cuts – one for surgical instruments, the other for a tiny camera that helps the surgeon view the area.
An endoscopic parathyroidectomy is similar, but involves two or three incisions in the front of the neck and another above the breastbone to minimize scarring and speed up recovery time.
A follow-up visit is necessary to ensure calcium levels are under control. In some cases, additional surgeries may be needed.
All surgeries involve some degree of risk, such as bleeding, infection and reactions to anesthesia. Parathyroid surgery could cause injury to the thyroid gland and vocal cords or cause breathing problems. In addition, you could be at risk for hypocalcemia, a condition in which calcium levels drop too low. Fortunately, this is easily treatable.
Call Willamette ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery at (503) 581-1567 for more information or to schedule an appointment.