Many people confuse the parathyroid and the thyroid itself, but they are actually two different things. The parathyroid is actually in four different pieces located on the back of the thyroid gland. Each of these four pieces is only about the size of a grain of rice, but they play a very important role in the body.
The thyroid gland releases hormones that work to regulate the metabolism, which is linked to weight and energy. The parathyroid gland is different. It also produces hormones, but they are used to regulate calcium levels of the body. With two different functions, the glands are located close together but are not related.
There are a number of different conditions that can affect the parathyroid. By learning more about these conditions, you will be better prepared if you get diagnosed with one of them.
If the gland is producing too much of the PTH hormone it is responsible for, then you could have hyperparathyroidism. In this situation, the body will have all of the calcium it needs, but the gland is still making the hormone.
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism include:
- Muscles weakness
- Muscle aches
- Confusion or cloudy memory
- Thinning bones
- Kidney stones
Many of these symptoms can be linked to other conditions, so your doctor will need to determine if you do have hyperparathyroidism. Usually, if the hyperparathyroidism is severe, then the treatment your doctor will recommend is to remove the parathyroid completely. This is the only certain way to completely stop the condition. In some of the minor forms of hyperparathyroidism, nothing will be done for treatment since such a small case won’t do much damage.
When the parathyroid is not working properly and not creating enough of the calcium regulating hormone, then you have hypoparathyroidism. This is actually a very rare condition and almost always only appears if you have had to have your parathyroid surgically removed. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Weight gain for no reason
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling in the face
- Slow heart rate
- Thinning hair
- Menstrual problems
- Hoarse voice
- Memory loss
- Dry skin
- High cholesterol
- Joint pain
If you have any of these symptoms, then you may need to see your doctor. This is especially true if your parathyroid has been surgically removed. Treatment almost always involves taking hormone replacement medications. You will need to work with your doctor over several appointments to determine which medication and in what dose will work for your condition.
Hyperparathyroidism Causes Osteoporosis
If you have hyperparathyroidism, then you are at great risk for osteoporosis. This is because the gland is releasing too much of the PTH hormone. When this happens, the bones release more calcium into the blood stream to compensate. When your bones lose the calcium they need, they become less dense and soft. This is osteoporosis. If you develop the condition as a result of a hyperactive parathyroid, your doctor will most likely treat osteoporosis separately.
The parathyroid is a gland that produces important hormones. However, despite its name and location, it is not connected to the thyroid in any way. This gland creates a hormone that helps to regulate calcium in your body. If the parathyroid is not functioning properly, then it can cause different conditions, including brittle bones and osteoporosis. If you believe you have any of the conditions related to the gland, then you should make an appointment with your physician right away. If you have the condition treated quickly enough, you can avoid long term effects of either hyperparathyroidism or hypoparathyroidism.
Dr. Michael Barakate is a pediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia offering thyroid and parathyroid information at Thyroid.com.au.