Hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is a condition that causes one or more parathyroid glands to produce an excess amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH). This disrupts the blood calcium level in the body and can lead to kidney failure. To understand the correlation between parathyroid gland abnormalities and kidney failure, let’s examine the impact of HPT on the kidneys.
Does the Parathyroid Affect the Kidneys? What You Need to Know
HPT develops when the parathyroid glands can no longer effectively monitor calcium in the bloodstream. Typically, the parathyroid tracks calcium levels and regulates them they exceed or fall below the standard range. HPT causes the parathyroid to malfunction, which hampers the glands’ ability to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood.
The parathyroid glands produce PTH to help manage calcium in the blood and within the bones. Parathyroids determine how much PTH to release based on the amount of calcium present in the body. If the body detects a low calcium level, the parathyroids produce more PTH, which triggers the bones to release calcium and increase the level present in the bloodstream.
HPT causes enlargement of one or more parathyroids, which can lead to an above-average release of PTH in the body. This in turn leads to high levels of calcium – meaning, HPT can result in calcium kidney stones that hinder kidney function.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones refer to hard deposits that form in the kidneys, consisting of minerals and salts. Calcium makes up one of the most common types of kidney stones. They can affect any portion of the urinary tract and cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Pain in the side, abdomen, and/or back
- Cloudy, foul-smelling, pink, red, or brown urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
For a patient dealing with a kidney stone, it can be painful to pass the stone on its own. In some instances, kidney stone patients require lots of water and pain medication to help pass a stone.
Should a kidney stone become lodged in the urinary tract, passing the stone can become exceedingly difficult. In this case, a patient may require surgery to remove the kidney stone. Or, a treatment breaking down the stone into smaller pieces can help make it easier to pass.
A single kidney stone is unlikely to cause kidney failure if it is properly diagnosed and treated. However, if a kidney stone remains in the body, it increases the risk of chronic kidney disease. And if chronic kidney disease persists, kidney failure can occur.
A Closer Look at the Parathyroid and Kidney Stones
Poor kidney function can make it difficult for the body to convert vitamin D into a form that the body can use. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes calcium absorption in the gut. The vitamin also helps the body maintain adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to promote bone growth and prevent bone deterioration.
If kidney function declines, the body’s usable supply of vitamin D simultaneously decreases. This causes calcium in the body to plummet as well. The result: Kidney failure that can lead to HPT.
Instances have been reported in which an HPT patient experiences an elevated PTH level in combination with an above-average calcium level and below-average vitamin D level. Comparatively, in rare cases, HPT patients have reported a low vitamin D level that causes a decline in the body’s calcium level and an increase in the body’s PTH level.
In either of the aforementioned scenarios, a patient requires proper medical diagnosis and treatment. A medical evaluation is the first step to determining if a patient has sufficient vitamin D and calcium, if kidney stones are present, and if HPT has occurred. Only then can the patient receive appropriate treatment and care.
How Is HPT Diagnosed and Treated?
A blood test can analyze vitamin D and calcium levels in patients, as well as detect the presence of kidney stones. If the blood test reveals an excess amount of calcium or uric acid, it’s more likely that one or more kidney stones may also be present.
In cases where patients display an elevated PTH level and elevated calcium level, they may be coping with HPT. Additional tests can provide an accurate diagnosis, including:
- Bone Mineral Density Test: Uses an X-ray to measure calcium and other minerals packed into a segment of bone.
- Urine Test: Requires a 24-hour collection of urine to evaluate a patient’s kidney function and the amount of calcium excreted.
- Imaging Tests of Kidneys: Collecting images of the abdomen to confirm the presence of one or more kidney stones.
If HPT is diagnosed, other tests are conducted before developing a treatment plan. Localization studies aid in detecting one or more abnormal parathyroids. Based on whether a patient is dealing with one or multiple abnormal parathyroids, treatment options are explored.
A minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) offers higher cure rates and a lower risk of complications in comparison to many other HPT treatments. The surgery can be performed in under 20 minutes and helps limit scarring. Dr. Babak Larian of the CENTER for Advanced Parathyroid Surgery can complete this procedure.
As a parathyroid surgery expert with many years of industry experience, Dr. Larian is available to teach HPT patients about MIP. He can perform a minimally invasive parathyroid surgery to treat parathyroid abnormalities, along with provide tips and recommendations to help patients avoid future parathyroid issues that can contribute to kidney failure. To learn more about MIP or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Larian, please contact us online or call us today at 310.461.0300.