Hypercalcemia: The disorder caused due to presence of high levels of calcium in your blood.
Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium along with vitamins, essential fatty acids and amino acids are vital components required for the proper functioning of our metabolism and body’s system. The proper balance of all these elements is important to maintain over all health of our body. A slight variation or imbalance in the concentration of these essential elements can cause a great impact on the normal biochemical pathways, eventually leading to hazardous disease and disorders.
Today I am going to share with you a serious condition termed as “Hypercalcemia” that is rising as a deadly disorder with 50% mortality rate. So without wasting any time let’s move on to the major portion of this article.
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So what is Hypercalcemia?
Hypercalcemia is a medical condition that occurs when you have high concentration of calcium in your blood. Once this condition affects you, it makes it difficult for your body to carry out its normal functions, even causing life-threatening complications in the long run. It’s evident that we need calcium for our organs, cells, muscles,nerves and bone health but too much of it can ruin our health.
High levels of calcium in the blood can weaken the bones, result in formation of kidney stones and even interfere with our heart and brain functions.
What Causes Hypercalcemia?
Hypercalcemia is caused due to overactive parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands are responsible to supply and regulate calcium levels in blood and over active gland results in the release of high concentration of calcium into the blood. PTH increases when the calcium in the blood falls and decreases when your calcium level rises. Other causes of hypercalcemia might include:
- Hyperparathyroidism which can stem from a benign tumor or due to the enlargment of one or more of the four parathyroid glands.
- Cancer like lung cancer and breast cancer or blood cancer can cause hypercalcemia. Once the cancer starts to spread to your bones, it can trigger the release of more calcium into your blood.
- Diseases like tuberculosis and sarcoidosis also causes the vitamin D levels in your blood to rise. This results in more calcium absorption ultimately increasing the calcium level in the blood.
- Immobility where people who have the habit of sitting or lying down for a long time are at higher risks of developing hypercalcemia.
- Severe Dehydration is also another common cause of mild or transient hypercalcemia as having less fluid in the blood causes rise in calcium levels.
- Consumption of certain medications like diuretics, lithium can also result in more PTH to be released. Also excessive intake of Vitamin D through diet or other supplements can also raise the calcium level.
- Hereditary factors can also influence hypercalcemia. A genetic disorder termed as familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia can cause increase of calcium in your blood.
Now that you know how hypercalcemia occurs, let’s further get down to find out the signs and symptom of this disorder.
Symptoms of Hypercalcemia
Mild hypercalcemia doesn’t exhibit any symptoms but in serious case of hypercalcemia, you can observe several symptoms in different parts of your body.
- Symptoms related to kidney include excessive urination, excessive thirst, abdominal pain, pain between your back and upper abdomen.
- General symptoms include nausea, decreased appetite, headache, constipation and vomiting
- Hypercalcemia can also affect your heart causing arrhythemia, interfering the normal heart functions.
- In most cases, the excess calcium in the blood is due to release from its bones. Due to this, the bone doesn’t get the required amount of calcium leading it to go weak and brittle. This causes joint pain, weakness, osteoporosis and depression.
- Hypercalcemia affects the brain functioning leading to confusion, lethargy, memory loss, irritability and fatigue.
Blood test is generally carried out to examine the calcium level in the blood. To find out other underlying cause of the disorder your doctor might recommend you to take other tests like chest X rays to reveal lung cancer, mammograms for breast cancer, CT scans for lung infections, MRIs and DEXA bone mineral density tests to evaluate bone strength.
Acute hypercalcemia or mild hypercalcemia doesn’t require immediate treatment. But this doesn’t mean you should not be concerned. If you experience the general symptoms like constant thirst, fatigue and abdominal pain, consult your doctor right away to go for further tests.
Severe cases of hypercalcemia requires treatment through medications. Common treatment options include:
- IV(Intravenous) biophosphonates can lower blood calcium levels
- Hormones like calcitonin can slow down bone loss or bone erosion.
- Corticosteroids are also useful to balance the level of vitamin D.
- Dialysis can also be carried to get rid of your blood from extra calcium if you have damaged kidneys.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism, you might require surgery to remove the abnormal parathyroid glands. You can also take medicationslike cinacalcet that regulates the calcium level by decreasing the parathyroid hormone production.
Hypercalcemia In Cancer patients
If you have cancer, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you to help you determine the best ways to treat hypercalcemia. You might be able to get relief from symptoms through intravenous fluids and medications like bisphosphonates. This might make it easier for you to deal with your cancer treatments.