Hyperparathyroidism (HPT) and hyperthyroidism sound similar, but there are many differences between these medical conditions. To better understand HPT and hyperthyroidism, let’s examine both conditions in detail.
What Is Hyperparathyroidism?
HPT affects one or more of the parathyroid glands, which help the body manage its calcium levels. The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates calcium in the blood. If a person is dealing with HPT, the parathyroid glands produce excess amounts of PTH; this causes calcium levels in the blood to rise and can result in mild to severe side effects.
The two types of HPT are primary and secondary. Primary HPT occurs when the body produces an excess amount of PTH due to hyperactivity of one or more of the parathyroid glands, while secondary HPT occurs when a disease outside of the parathyroid glands causes the parathyroid glands to become hyperactive.
There is no surefire cause of primary HPT. In many instances, HPT occurs due to a tumor that forms on one or more parathyroid glands and causes hyperactivity.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism?
The symptoms of HPT vary, and they are commonly associated with a wide range of diseases. If a person is dealing with mild HPT, he or she may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
If a person is dealing with severe HPT, he or she may be susceptible to nausea, vomiting, confusion, and an increased thirst and urge to urinate. In addition to the aforementioned severe symptoms of HPT, people dealing with HPT may experience kidney stones and osteoporosis (a condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle). In some instances, people display no symptoms of HPT, despite the fact that they are dealing with one or more hyperactive parathyroid glands.
For those who experience one or more HPT symptoms, seeking medical support is crucial. The symptoms of HPT may be linked to different medical disorders. By meeting with a doctor, an individual can receive prompt testing and diagnosis and explore ways to treat his or her symptoms.
How Is HPT Diagnosed and Treated?
Lab tests are often used to diagnose HPT. For instance, a blood test enables a doctor to analyze a patient’s blood and find out if he or she is dealing with elevated calcium levels. Other tests used to diagnose HPT include:
- Calcium ionized
- PTH intact
- Vitamin D
- 24 hour urine calcium levels
Once the diagnosis is made, the next priority is to locate the abnormal parathyroid:
- Localization Studies: Help a doctor identify the precise location of one or more abnormal parathyroid glands. Common localization studies that doctors use to locate the abnormal parathyroid include ultrasound, 4D parathyroid CT scan, sestamibi/SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scan.
Treatment is surgery to remove the abnormal gland or glands.
Medications like calcimimetics and bisphosphonates and hormone replacement therapy are sometimes used to treat HPT.
Calcimimetics attach to parathyroid cells and help them respond to high blood calcium levels. The result: calcimimetics help parathyroid cells produce less PTH to minimize an individual’s risk of HPT.
Bisphosphonates are commonly used to treat osteoporosis. They disable the bone cell that causes bone breakdown linked to HPT. Although bisphosphonates won’t cure HPT, they may help patients reduce bone density loss caused by the condition.
Hormone replacement therapy involves estrogen, a group of steroid hormones that is often used to treat menopausal and menstrual disorders. The therapy works in a similar fashion to bisphosphonates, as estrogen disables the bone cell that leads to bone breakdown and limits the risk of bone density loss. It may also help HPT patients increase bone mineral density.
Minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP) surgery has been shown to help HPT patients address their symptoms. The procedure has a high success rate and low risk of complications, but the success rate of MIP depends on the surgeon performing the procedure. By selecting a surgeon who possesses comprehensive head and neck tumor surgery expertise, an individual can maximize his or her MIP results.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism affects the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. The thyroid produces hormones that the body uses to manage metabolism, heart rate, and other vital functions; however, if the thyroid becomes hyperactive, it produces excess amounts of hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism.
Research indicates that women are more prone than men to hyperthyroidism. Research also shows that the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are identical in women and men.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism symptoms vary, and they can mimic the symptoms associated with different health problems. Common hyperthyroidism symptoms include:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
In rare instances, Graves’ ophthalmopathy affects hyperthyroidism patients. Graves’ ophthalmopathy, also referred to as thyroid eye disease (TED), causes muscles behind the eyes to swell and makes the eyeballs protrude. TED causes swelling, redness, conjunctivitis, and other eye problems.
Consulting with a doctor at the first sign of hyperthyroidism symptoms is paramount. A doctor learns about a patient’s hyperthyroidism symptoms, as well as conducts assorted tests to understand these symptoms. He or she can then provide a personalized treatment designed to deliver long-lasting hyperthyroidism symptom relief.
How Is Hyperthyroidism Diagnosed and Treated?
A doctor reviews a patient’s symptoms and medical history and performs a physical examination to provide a hyperthyroidism diagnosis. At this time, a doctor examines a patient’s thyroid gland as he or she swallows; this allows a doctor to see if a patient’s thyroid gland is enlarged. A doctor also checks a patient’s pulse to see if it is rapid or irregular, as well as finds out if a patient is dealing with overactive reflexes, eye changes, and other signs of hyperthyroidism.
Blood tests may be used to diagnose hyperthyroidism. With blood tests, a doctor measures a patient’s thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Thyroxine is the hormone that the thyroid gland secretes into the bloodstream; if a patient’s thyroxine levels are high, he or she may be dealing with a hyperactive thyroid. TSH regulates the production of hormones by the thyroid gland; if a patient’s TSH levels are low, he or she may be dealing with an hyperactive thyroid.
Imaging tests may also be used to confirm a hyperthyroidism diagnosis. A radioiodine uptake test is a common imaging test that requires a patient to take a small, oral dose of radioactive iodine to see how much travels to the thyroid gland. Meanwhile, other imaging tests for hyperthyroidism include a thyroid scan and a thyroid ultrasound. A thyroid scan involves the injection of a radioactive isotope that travels to the thyroid gland, while a thyroid ultrasound involves the use of high-frequency sound waves to produce thyroid images.
Medication, radioiodine therapy, and surgery are among the most-common hyperthyroidism treatments. Anti-thyroid medications are the first line treatments for hyperthyroidism; they prevent the thyroid gland from producing excess amounts of hormones to reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms. Comparatively, radioiodine therapy helps reduce the size of the thyroid gland over the course of several months. For people who are searching for an alternative to medication, radioiodine therapy, or other hyperthyroidism treatments, thyroidectomy surgery may be a safe, effective option. A thyroidectomy involves the removal of most of the thyroid gland. The procedure must be performed by a skilled and experienced surgeon; otherwise, a thyroidectomy patient risks vocal cord and parathyroid gland damage.
Can You Experience HPT and Hyperthyroidism at the Same Time?
HPT and hyperthyroidism can occur at the same time. But it is rare to get both of these conditions at the same time. However, patients who are treated with radioactive iodine for Grave’s disease are at a higher risk of developing hyperparathyroidism.
Watch Dr. Larian’s Hyperparathyroidism FAQ on Facebook Live
Schedule a Treatment Consultation with Dr. Babak Larian Today
For individuals who believe they may be dealing with HPT, hyperthyroidism, or both, help is available. Dr. Larian of the CENTER for Advanced Parathyroid Surgery is a board-certified head and neck surgeon who provides expert parathyroid and thyroid gland treatments. To schedule a treatment consultation with Dr. Larian, please contact us online or call us today at 310-461-0300.