The parathyroids are small glands that sit on each side of the thyroid in the neck. Usually there are four total, two on each side, slightly behind or nestled close to the thyroid. The parathyroid Hormone (PTH) assists in controlling calcium metabolism, an important aspect of many of the body’s important functions.
Although uncommon, abnormal growths can develop on one or more of the parathyroid glands and interfere with the function of one or all of the glands. They are called adenomas and are typically noncancerous.
These adenomas, however, can cause a condition known as hyperparathyroidism which is due to an increase in parathyroid hormone (PTH) production. Too much PTH can lead to bone loss or frailty because instead of telling the calcium to be deposited into the bone, it is excreted through the kidneys and urine.
“Moans, Groans, Stones and Bones”
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism are commonly referred to as “moans, groans, stones and bones” because the abnormal calcium regulation causes bones to ache and many complain of fatigue and even depression. The development of kidney and bladder stones are also very common in parathyroid disorders because of the excessive amounts of calcium being excreted in the urine. Stomach ulcers, pancreatitis and neurological symptoms are also associated with parathyroid disorders.
If a parathyroid growth is identified and is causing abnormalities in PTH production, surgery is typically the treatment of choice. The parathyroid glands are so small and since there are more than one of them, often not only the tumor but the entire affected parathyroid gland is removed.
As long as there is at least one fully functioning parathyroid gland present, normal PTH production and calcium metabolism can continue. Prior to surgery, an ultrasound of the neck is often combined with a nuclear imaging study that uses a marker to identify the abnormal gland.
Surgery is performed under general anesthesia in a surgical facility or hospital.
Our ENT specialists are well experienced and skilled at identifying and treating parathyroid disorders with state-of-the-art, minimally invasive techniques that leave little to no scarring and carry less risk to the surrounding tissue and structures. Call today if you have been told you have a parathyroid nodule or believe you may be experiencing symptoms of one.