Hyperparathryoidism is a unique disease in that it affects all patients in different ways. Almost all hyperparathryoid patients experience symptoms of the disease, however, one of the reasons that so many hyperparathyroid patients go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed is because the symptoms are wide-ranging, are not obvious, and can be associated with several other diseases. As a result, symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can be hard for an inexperienced physician to pinpoint.
But please understand, regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms, the disease is still destroying your body, and ultimately decreasing your life expectancy if not treated. Luckily, the disease can be cured by removing the tumor with a minimally invasive procedure that usually takes less than 20 minutes.
“I struggled unsuccessfully for months to find a local surgeon who could diagnose my hyperparathyroidism, and was fortunate enough to learn about Dr. Larian while doing my own research. Few doctors are knowledgeable about parathyroid disease, even fewer can perform the surgery successfully using minimally invasive procedures.” –Jennifer, Washington DC
Every cell in our body uses calcium to function properly; therefore having high calcium levels can cause a wide range of symptoms. However, the severity of symptoms does not always correlate to the calcium level. This means you do not necessarily have to have very high calcium levels in order to experience extreme symptoms, and, vice versa, you may have very high levels of calcium with almost no symptoms present (more information about Calcium Levels & Your Parathyroid Symptoms below).
When you ask a parathyroid patient about their symptoms they will tell you that they no longer feel like themselves, they feel old, their body aches, they don’t enjoy life like they used to, etc. For some patients, these symptoms are obvious and for others they are less pronounced. Because the symptoms of hyperparathyroid disease are so non-specific and patients can experience any combination of symptoms, a lot of patients are not properly diagnosed as having a parathyroid disorder, and continue to live in pain. This is why it is crucial to find a parathyroid expert, to correctly diagnose and treat the disease.
The following symptoms are considered to be the major symptoms of hyperparathyroidism, but they occur later in the disease and are not the most common symptoms:
Mental Status Change
High Stomach Acidity
Below is a more comprehensive list of the hyperparathyroidism symptoms patients may suffer from as a result of the disease:
- Chronic fatigue
- Always tired
- Decreased energy
- Don’t feel like leaving the house and participating in activities they used to enjoy
- Just don’t feel like yourself
- Never feel 100% well or healthy
- Don’t feel “normal” anymore
- It is hard to explain to others, but you know something is not right
- Feel old
- You are getting older, so this must be what it feels like to age?
- Maybe this is just what menopause feels like?
- Brain fog
- Cognitive dysfunction
- You can’t concentrate like you used to (both on simple tasks and big projects)
- Mental fogginess
- Forgetfulness – you find yourself forgetting things easily
- More irritable than usual
- You aren’t as happy as you used to be
- Little things bother you more than they used to
- Reoccurring headaches
- Poor sleep
- You don’t sleep as well as you used to.
- You can’t sleep through the night; wake up several times during the night
- You have trouble falling asleep
- Muscle weakness
- Bone pain
- Bone fractures
- Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
- Gastro-Intestinal issues
- Abdominal pain (stomach aches)
- Acid reflux
- Peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcer)
- Acute pancreatitis
- Decreased libido (sex drive)
- Kidney stones
- Can potentially lead to kidney failure
- Frequent urination
- Excessive night time urination
- Heart palpitations (arrhythmias)
- High blood pressure
- Frontal hair loss
Long-standing elevation in calcium levels places a heavy burden on the body. Some of the symptoms listed are caused by elevation in calcium, some are caused directly by PTH itself, and a great number by the combination of the two. There are receptors for PTH in the bone and kidney, but also in the brain, heart, cartilages, and adrenal glands. This is the reason for having such a wide variety of symptoms. Parathyroid disease only gets worse with time in everyone. It will continually change, and will not get better on its own. Stidies have shown that in patients that have untreated hyperparathyroidism, the chance of cardiac abnormality and heart disease increases and life expectancy decreases. However, this does not need to be the case! When the parathyroid tumor is removed, and the disease is cured most of the problems caused by hyperparathyroidism is reversed.
“After years of vague symptoms and months of severe symptoms, just days after surgery I feel better than I have in such a long time.” –Jennifer, Washington DC
Several medical studies have shown that 95% of patients feel better almost immediately after surgery. In as quickly as 72 hours post-parathyroidectomy, most patients feel an improvement in numerous symptoms, specifically with a dramatic decrease in bone pain/aches. Interestingly, even the patients who do not report any symptoms find that they feel much better after surgery.
What Happens If Hyperparathyroidism Is Left Untreated?
If left untreated hypercalcemia, one of the leading symptoms of hyperparathyroidism, can lead to long-term mental and physical health problems of the heart, bones, muscles and connective tissues including depression, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and even kidney failure.
Can You Die From Hyperparathyroidism?
In some cases, the condition can be fatal. The excessive amounts of calcium found in your blood as a result of hyperparathyroidism can be fatal and could lead to heart disease. High levels of calcium are also the cause of kidney stones which, if left untreated, can result in kidney failure.
Can Hyperparathyroidism Be Cured Permanently?
Yes. The most common treatment for hyperparathyroidism is surgery to remove the affected thyroid glands. Surgery cures hyperparathyroidism in 95 percent of patients treated.
What Foods Should Be Avoided With Hyperparathyroidism?
You should avoid foods which contain trans fats found in processed baked goods and fried foods such as French fries and onion rings, refined foods such as white bread, pasta, and sugar, as well as caffeine and alcohol.
Can Hyperparathyroidism Cause Night Sweats?
No. While those with hyperparathyroidism frequently have trouble sleeping which can be include fatigue and aches and pains, it is generally not characterized by night sweats.
Calcium Levels & Your Parathyroid Symptoms
The severity of your symptoms does not always correlate your calcium levels. Therefore, it is possible to have debilitating symptoms with only a slight elevation in calcium levels on laboratory testing. Alternatively, you could have very high calcium levels and experience little to no symptoms. The reason for this is that the degree of symptoms has to do with how much of an increase you have had in calcium compared to the level your body wanted your calcium to be years ago before you had hyperparathyroidism. So if your body prefers calciums in the lower end of normal (laboratory normal range) then being only slightly above normal is a huge increase; for example if your calciums liked being around 8.8-9.0 and now it’s between 10.2-10.4, that is a huge increase. What does this mean? Do not let your calcium level alone fool you or your physician into thinking that you do not have parathyroid disease! Hyperparathyroidism may present in many different forms on laboratory tests, such as normocalcemic or normohormonal hyperparathyroidism shown in the table below. These are not different diseases but rather different ways hyperparathyroidism presents on laboratory tests.
If your calcium and/or PTH levels show an imbalance and are even slightly elevated, and you are having some symptoms consistent with hyperparathyroidism, it is time to find a parathyroid specialist, like Dr. Larian, who can properly diagnose you. Dr. Larian has extensive experience in diagnosing patients based off of their symptoms, calcium levels, and PTH levels, and has seen countless manifestations of the disease. Many of the patients we see here at the CENTER have gone years without being diagnosed, and we are able to diagnose them during their first in-office, or even Skype, consultation. We will not tell you that your calcium is “not that high” or to “wait a few more months or another year to see if the levels come down” because we know the parathyroid tumor will not go away on its own and therefore there is no reason to delay treatment.
Find Out If You Have Hyperparathyroidism Today!
If you are ready to feel like yourself again, contact the CENTER for Advanced Parathyroid Surgery today! Dr. Babak Larian is a world-renowned parathyroid expert who cures hundreds of parathyroid patients every year, and you can be next! Call us at 310.461.0300 to schedule your hyperparathyroidism consultation.