There are typically four parathyroid glands located near the main thyroid in the neck. These glands are responsible for producing parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls calcium metabolism in the bones and urine. Normal parathyroid glands are no more than the size of a sunflower seed. Abnormal glands swell to approximately the size of a grape.
The most common parathyroid disease is overactive parathyroid or hyperparathyroidism. In approximately 90% of patients affected, one of four of the parathyroid glands is overactive, but a small portion of the population experiences more than one overactive gland. When a gland is overactive, it increases levels of PTH, which causes the body to absorb calcium from the bones. This weakens the bones and causes osteoporosis. It can also lead to kidney stones and extreme damage to the kidneys, as well as depression, muscle symptoms, and fatigue.
- Temporary or permanent hoarseness
- Low calcium levels, which are treated with oral supplements
- Inability to locate the affected gland, which results in permanent hyperparathyroidism