What is hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia is a condition in which there is higher than a normal level of calcium in your blood. Calcium is important to many body processes, including bone growth, maintaining proper hormone levels, and correct functioning of nerves, muscles, and the brain. This level is usually controlled very precisely by the body. However, in certain conditions, patients can develop hypercalcemia. It is a fairly common condition.

What complications could occur?

Complications are unlikely since hypercalcemia is easy to detect. However, if not detected and treated, the following health effects could occur:

  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • Kidney stones or failure
  • Hypertension
  • Ulcer

What causes hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia can be caused by over 25 separate disease states. Primary hyperparathyroidism and malignancy account for 80 to 90% of all hypercalcemic cases.

In primary hyperparathyroidism, the 4 parathyroid glands, located near your Adam’s apple and behind the thyroid glands, produce too much parathyroid hormone. This hormone works with vitamin D and calcitonin to maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood. Calcitonin is produced by the specialized cells in the thyroid gland.

Several cancers can also result in hypercalcemia.

Genetics or certain medicines, particularly lithium (Eskalith CR®, Eskalith®, or Lithobid®), may prevent the body from maintaining proper blood calcium levels and so result in too much calcium in the blood.

Other less common causes of hypercalcemia include:

  • Taking in too much vitamin D or calcium (dietary or supplemental).
  • Granulomatous inflammatory diseases, such as sarcoidosis, and some fungal infections.
  • Failure of kidneys or adrenal glands.
  • Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid or fast metabolism).
  • Being bedridden.
  • Taking thiazide diuretics (medicines that increase urination).

What are the symptoms of hypercalcemia?

Although showing symptoms of hypercalcemia is uncommon, symptoms can include:

  • Frequent urination and/or thirst.
  • Hard to-treat increased blood pressure.
  • Bone pain.
  • Loss of height.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or decrease in appetite.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Depression or irritability.
  • Muscular weakness and/or twitches.

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