Q:

What role does the parathyroid gland play in overall health?

A:

Quick Answer

The parathyroid glands lie behind the thyroid gland in the neck and are responsible for regulating calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, according to Mayo Clinic. The four tiny glands, no bigger than a grain of rice, secrete parathyroid hormone to maintain optimal blood levels of the essential minerals.

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What role does the parathyroid gland play in overall health?
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Full Answer

When the parathyroid glands manufacture too little parathyroid hormone, or PTH, hypoparathyroidism occurs, explains Mayo Clinic. This condition causes insufficient levels of calcium in the bones and blood and excess levels of serum phosphorus. Hypoparathyroidism can be due to an autoimmune disease that causes the glands to stop producing PTH, a genetic abnormality that results in missing or nonfunctioning glands at birth, damage from radiation treatments for neck and face cancers, and low blood magnesium levels. Another common cause of hypoparathyroidism is damage to the parathyroid glands sustained during thyroid or neck cancer surgery.

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition characterized by increased calcium in the blood, the result of the parathyroid glands' overproduction of PTH, reports WebMD. This forces the body to remove calcium from the bones, which can result in osteoporosis. As the body absorbs more calcium from the intestines, constipation and nausea often occur. Less calcium is excreted in the urine, sometimes causing fatigue and the formation of kidney stones. Hyperparathyroidism can be caused by a tumor on the glands, in which case surgical removal of all or part of the glands may be required.

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