Understanding Hypoparathyroidism

Hypoparathyroidism is a rare condition in which the parathyroid glands either produce an insufficient amount of the parathyroid hormone (PTH) or the PTH produced is not biologically active. PTH regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the body; too little PTH results in low calcium levels in the blood and bones, or hypocalcemia, and an increase in serum phosphorus levels, or hyperphosphatemia. The drop in calcium levels and the increase in phosphorus levels caused by hypoparathyroidism may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Involuntary cramping spasms (tetany) and twitching in the hands, feet, arms, legs, and face
  • Muscle pain and cramps in the legs, feet, abdomen, or face
  • Burning or tingling feelings (paresthesia) around the mouth and in the fingers and toes
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches, depression, and mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Dry, coarse skin
  • Patchy hair loss

Hypoparathyroidism can have several causes, the two most common being accidental damage caused to the parathyroid glands during surgery or the surgical removal of the parathyroid glands. An autoimmune disease, cancer radiation treatment of the face or neck, low blood magnesium levels, or a genetic disorder can also cause hypoparathyroidism. If left untreated, hypoparathyroidism can cause the following complications in addition to tetany and paresthesia: 

  • Teeth malformation
  • Heart arrhythmias and fainting
  • Damaged kidney function
  • Calcium deposits in the brain that also cause balance problems and seizures
  • Loss of consciousness and convulsions
  • Cataracts
  • Stunted growth
  • Slow mental development or mental retardation in children

Tampa General Hospital’s Parathyroid Center offers treatment for hypoparathyroidism and other parathyroid disorders. TGH is also the only hospital in the United States that conducts minimally invasive radioguided parathyroid (MIRP) surgery, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked TGH as one of America's Best Hospitals for Diabetes & Endocrinology.