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An Unexpected Connection – Hyperparathyroidism and Osteoporosis

An Unexpected Connection – Hyperparathyroidism and Osteoporosis


What is Hyperparathyroidism?

Hyperparathyroidism is the disease of the parathyroid glands, the small, endocrine system glands located at the back of the thyroid gland. These glands are four in number and of the same size and shape as a rice grain. The regulation of calcium in our bodies is the job of these glands. When one or more of these 4 glands function in an improper manner, they give rise to diseases. The major disease of these glands, which is caused due to their overactivity, is the Hyperparathyroidism. In this disease, the parathyroid hormone (PTH) is produced in excessive amounts. Calcium and phosphate levels in the body are regulated by this hormone. Hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis are closely related, and hence, it is one of the major causes of the increase in number of osteoporosis patients in the world. Let us see how this happens.

How Hyperparathyroidism is related to Osteoporosis?

The parathyroid hormone regulates the amounts of calcium in our body. It is responsible for absorption of calcium from the bones and distribution of it among the body through the blood vessels. In osteoporosis, the bone mineral lacks calcium and vitamin D. This is what exactly points towards hyperparathyroidism. In this disease when the PTH hormone is released in excess, a situation called hypercalcaemia is caused in the body. This means excessive amounts of PTH absorbs more calcium from the bones and since even the body cannot tolerate calcium more than its requirements, the extra calcium is excreted through urine. Hypercalcaemia for the body becomes hypocalcaemia for the bones. Thus, bones become deficit of calcium.

Also, hyperparathyroidism causes the deficiency of vitamin D from the bones, since calcium and vitamin D absorption in the bones is relative to each others amounts. These conditions are enough to prove the inverse relationship between hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis. Raised PTH levels are, in any way and case, harmful for the bones. The bones become weak and fragile due to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. This leads to the bones becoming more prone to breakage and fractures, and this is exactly the disease what we know as osteoporosis.

Patients suffering from primary hyperparathyroidism should make it a point to get themselves checked for any signs of osteoporosis. A good, but offensive, percentage of osteoporosis patients, who have not got the disease due to old age or post menstruation, are also seen to be having hyperparathyroidism since a long time. This % includes people who get osteoporosis in childhood or young age, or are men by sex. The impact of primary hyperparathyroidism can be reduced by following osteoporosis treatment. Or we can try the reverse way of treating osteoporosis by the treatment of hyperparathyroidism.

Removal of the offense making parathyroid gland(s) is a solution. But this way is quite difficult, as found by the doctors, in the beginning, since the parathyroid glands are located behind the thyroid glands and are so small in size compared to the latter that even after swelling they cannot be seen. Hence, it takes much time to locate the parathyroid glands initially such that no harm is caused to the thyroid gland. Then, by appropriate surgical techniques, we can eliminate the parathyroid gland that causes havoc for the body and the bones by generating more of the PTH hormone. Hence, this connection between hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis is no less than a disease itself.

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