The sole purpose of the parathyroid glands is to control calcium within the blood in a very tight range. In doing so, the glands control calcium levels in all of the fluids in the body, all the cells, and the bones.
What Does Calcium Do In The Body?
Calcium is the element that allows the normal conduction of electrical currents along nerves. It allows our nerves to communicate and our nervous system to work. In fact, our entire brain works by fluxes of calcium in and out of the nerve cells. Understanding these functions of calcium helps explain why people can get a tingling sensation in their fingers, or cramps in the muscles of their hands, when calcium levels drop below normal. The brain demands normal calcium levels, and any change in the amount of calcium can cause the brain to create emotional and mental imbalances. Too much parathyroid hormone creates high calcium levels, which can leave a person feeling run down, easily irritated, forgetful, depressed, and sleep deprived. All these symptoms are usually relived once a bad parathyroid gland is removed.
Every cell in the body uses calcium to communicate with the different parts of the cell inside itself. All the nerves in the body uses calcium to send information and commands to the next nerve, muscle, or organ. This is why calcium imbalance can cause so many neurologic symptoms, such as tiredness, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and poor concentration. Muscles also use calcium to flex, which in turn means that calcium imbalance may cause the muscles to cramp or weaken.
This calcium monitoring system runs constantly, thereby maintaining calcium and parathyroid hormone in a very narrow but normal range. Normal parathyroid glands will turn on and off dozens of times per day, in an attempt to keep the calcium level in the normal range so our brain and muscles function properly. Those of us with normal parathyroid function will have calcium levels that are in a very narrow range, with almost no variability (this narrow range is usually much narrower than what is consider to be the range of normal by laboratories for calcium). This can be contrasted with somebody that has a bad parathyroid gland, which has lost its regulatory system. These people have calcium levels that bounce around from high to low, almost never remaining steady for long. The control system is lost in parathyroid tumors know as hyperparathyroidism, and in general there is an upward trend in calcium and PTH levels.
The way PTH maintains calcium balance is by:
1. Going to the bones and instructing them to release calcium into the blood (this is the biggest storage area of calcium in the body).
2. Going to the kidneys and making the kidney get more calcium back from the urine, and also make the active form of Vitamin D (Vitamin D3) which in turn goes to the intestines and helps us absorb more calcium from the food.
If you would like to know more about the parathyroid function, schedule a consultation at the CENTER or give us a call at 310.933.4210310.933.4210 today!
Next, 5 parathyroid rules
Chief of Head & Neck Surgery at Cedars-Sinai
Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCLA
By Babak Larian, MD FACS Privacy Notice © 2013 Babak Larian, MD FACS. All Rights Reserved.
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