Dr Ben Lancashire is a specialist endocrine surgeon. He has expert training in surgical management of parathyroid gland disorders.
What are parathyroid glands?
The parathyroid glands are endocrine glands that produce parathyroid hormone (PTH). There are usually four of them (two on each side) at the back of your thyroid gland, though they may be found anywhere in the neck, even down as low as inside the chest cavity. A normal parathyroid is small – not much bigger than a grain of rice.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH) regulates the level of calcium in the blood. Calcium is important for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nerves, as well as the strength of your bones. High calcium levels due to parathyroid disease (hyperparathyroidism) can also result in:
Often, people will not have any symptoms of hyperparathyroidism, but a routine blood test (for other reasons) may show a high calcium level. Most doctors will follow this up and investigate you for a parathyroid problem.
What causes hyperparathyroidism?
There are multiple causes of hyperparathyroidism, and some of them are quite complex. The most common type is called primary hyperparathyroidism.
The causes of primary hyperparathyroidism are:
How do you diagnose primary hyperparathyroidism?
Investigations are usually first arranged by a GP or endocrinologist. Diagnosis and work-up generally involves:
These tests can diagnose whether you have hyperparathyroidism but may not always reveal where the abnormal gland is. There are a few other specialised scans and tests that Dr Lancashire will arrange if this is required.
Treatment of hyperparathyroidism
Surgery is the only effective treatment for hyperparathyroidism. There are no medications currently available that can cure primary hyperparathyroidism.
For people without any symptoms, there are guidelines that may help decide if you should consider surgery. Dr Lancashire will be able to discuss if you will benefit from surgery.