The parathyroid glands are four small glands situated behind the thyroid gland in the neck. These glands control calcium levels in the blood and bones.
Parathyroid glands are approximately the size of a grain of rice, though they can be pea-sized and still function normally. They are normally the color of spicy yellow mustard.
Keeping calcium at optimum levels is crucial for good health. When the parathyroids produce too much hormone, a disease called hyperparathyroidism results. This disease causes symptoms such as high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis, heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation. Untreated, hyperparathyroidism often leads to heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. Surgery resolves the disease.