Back to Top Primary Hyperparathyroidism - The Ottawa Hospital


What are parathyroid glands?

There are 4 parathyroid glands at the front of your neck just behind the thyroid gland. They are usually about the size of pea and make parathyroid hormone which is released into the blood. This hormone regulates the level of calcium in the blood by controlling the absorption of calcium from food in the gut, the loss of calcium in the urine and the release of calcium from the bones.

What is primary hyperparathyroidism?

This is a medical condition where one or more of the parathyroid glands grows and produces too much parathyroid hormone. This can increase the blood and urine calcium levels and lead to loss of calcium from the bones.

What are the symptoms of primary hyperparathyroidism?

Some people do not experience any symptoms and are found to have the condition from blood tests for calcium. Others experience weakness, pain, bone fractures or kidney stones.

Why does primary hyperparathyroidism have these effects?

If you have primary hyperparathyroidism, more calcium is coming out of your bones than is going back in and they can become weak. The calcium from your bones increases the calcium in your bloodstream, causing you to feel tired. Your body will excrete the extra calcium into your urine which can lead to kidney stones.

How does my doctor know which parathyroid glands are abnormal?

A parathyroid scan will often tell if one or more glands are enlarged. However, parathyroid glands are

quite small and sometimes abnormal parathyroid glands can not be seen on this scan. Other scans are sometime done but occasionally it can only be determined at surgery which parathyroid glands are abnormal.

How is primary hyperparathyroidism treated?

Surgical removal of the abnormal parathyroid glands usually solves the problem. However, if all four parathyroid glands are abnormal, the surgeon will usually leave part of one gland so there is still some parathyroid hormone in the body.


The Ottawa Hospital, Riverside Campus
The Foustanell as Endocrine and Diabetes Centre

Last updated on: November 1st, 2017