Parathyroid Glands

The parathyroid glands are organs that secrete parathormone, the hormone that controls level of calcium in the blood. The four parathyroid glands are embedded, two on each side, in the thyroid gland tissue located inthe lower part of the front of the neck.

Disorders of Parathyroid Gland

Lack of parathormone (hypoparathyroidism) often occurs if the parathyroid glands are accidentally damaged or removed during a partial thyroidectomy. More rarely, the parathyroid glands fail to secrete parathormone, or there may be resistance of the body tissues to the stimulating action of parathormone. Excessive secretion of parathormone (hyperparathyroidism) may also occur for no obvious reason.

Lack of parathormone leads to an abnormally low level of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). The major symptom is the twitching and spasm of muscles (tetany).

Excess production of parathormone (hyperparathyroidism) leads to a high level of calcium in the blood and a serious drainage of calcium from the bones. Symptoms include weakness, nausea, and constipation. These symptoms may be accompanied by thirst and the frequent passing of urine.

After a careful assessment and diagnosis has been by a physician, a surgeon may be asked to operate and remove the parathyroid gland. Most people who show up at their doctor's office with symptoms of hyperparathyroidism are chronically ill with symptoms arising from the kidneys or the skeleton. Rarely, however, they arrive actually ill with urgent symptoms that sometimes prove fatal. The terms acute hyperparathyroidism and hyperparathyroid crisis describe a simple episode of life-threatening high levels of calcium in the blood. Massachussetts General Hospital researchers have identified H2-receptors in the parathyroid glands, which supports the theory that there is an h2-related response to hyperparathyroidism. In several patients effective control of acute hyperparathyroidism crisis was achieved with the use of cimetidine.