Parathyroid glands control the amount of calcium in our blood. Everyone has four parathyroid glands, usually located right around the thyroid gland at the base of the neck. About 1 in 100 people (1 in 50 women over 50) will develop a parathyroid gland tumor during their lifetime, causing a disease called "hyperparathyroidism". Hyperparathyroidism is a destructive disease that causes high blood calcium, which can lead to serious health problems. It can be cured by surgically removing the parathyroid tumor. Hyperparathyroidism is not just an abnormal high blood calcium that can be monitored by your doctors. It is a serious disease that must be treated. This homepage is an overview of what is on our many pages arranged by topic. Normal parathyroid gland function is presented first. Hyperparathyroidism (parathyroid disease) is discussed next, including high blood calcium, symptoms and complications of hyperparathyroidism (osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, kidney stones, stroke, high blood pressure, and others). The third section presents treatment of parathyroid tumors, including the mini-parathyroid operation that everybody can have. This operation can change your life!
Section 1: Introduction to Parathyroid Glands
What are Parathyroid Glands? Parathyroid glands are small glands of the endocrine system that control the amount of calcium in our blood and bones. There are 4 parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid gland in the neck that play a very important role in body functions.
What is Normal Parathyroid Gland Function? The function of the parathyroid glands is to regulate blood calcium by secreting a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH) in response to blood calcium levels. Normal parathyroid glands secrete more PTH when the calcium goes down and less when the calcium goes up. A high calcium level almost always indicates a parathyroid gland tumor.
Section 2: Parathyroid Disease and Hyperparathyroidism
Hyperparathyroidism occurs when one (or more) of the parathyroids develops a tumor which makes too much hormone leading to high calcium and other bad symptoms. This tumor must be removed. Watch the video of our surgeons performing the entire operation in less than 13 minutes. Watch our animation; this 5-minute video will give you a great head start on this website.
The Symptoms of parathyroid disease (hyperparathyroidism) leading to high blood calcium are listed and discussed. You will be amazed what this small hormone-tumor will do to you; it even increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer.
Diagnosing Hyperparathyroidism is easy, but many doctors get confused. Blood calcium levels and parathyroid hormone levels will make the diagnosis. If you have high calcium, you almost certainly have a parathyroid tumor. If you have an iPad, or smart phone, then get the CalciumPro app. It is much better at telling you if you have a parathyroid problem than your doctor is. Buy in Apple Store. Buy in Android Store
Pictures and Photos of Parathyroid Tumors. See photos of the tumors we removed from our patients during a two-week time period. This will allow you to compare your calcium and PTH levels to others who have already had surgery... so you can see what may be in your neck. Very informative. This is a must read page.
Low Vitamin D Levels. 96% of patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (a parathyroid tumor) have low vitamin D. This is the body protecting itself, but is commonly misunderstood by endocrinologists. If your doctor said you have low vitamin D which is causing your high calcium, read this page because that is impossible.
Diagnosing Hyperparathyroidism--ADVANCED. This is our best page on how to diagnose parathyroid disease. Read this after you have read our first page on the diagnosis of hyperparathyroidism. This is an important page you should take to your doctors. Watch the operation movie before you read this page.
Section 3: Surgery for Parathyroid Tumors and Hyperparathyroidism: Old 'Big' Parathyroid Surgery and New 'Mini' Parathyroid Surgery.
The Standard Parathyroid Operation. The treatment for high calcium (hyperparathyroidism) is surgery to remove the parathyroid tumor. The 'standard' operation is still performed today like it was in 1925, but nobody should ever have this big operation. If your surgeon doesn't perform at least two parathyroid operations per week, then go somewhere else.
Minimally Invasive Parathyroid Surgery. Mini-parathyroid surgery (MIRP) was invented in 1993. Virtually all parathyroid patients should have mini-surgery -- But you must find an experienced parathyroid surgeon. Do not let your doctor tell you that you can't get mini surgery because your scan is negative. Everybody can have mini surgery. And all four glands should be analyzed. Be careful of surgeons who are going to check only one parathyroid gland.
The MIRP Procedure. The MIRP Mini-Parathyroid Operation cures over 99% of patients using only minimal anesthesia, typically takes less than 20 minutes and patients go home about one or two hours later through an incision that is only 1 inch. Click to see a movie of this operation. This is state of the art in parathyroid treatment with no blood and is very informative. The entire operation to examine all four parathyroid glands and remove two parathyroid tumors takes under 13 minutes. See here why you want all four parathyroid glands checked!
Narrative that goes along with the 13 minute parathyroid operation video. This is a MUST READ SECTION. This page describes all that is happening during the video of the mini-parathyroid operation. There is so much happening behind the scenes that allow this complex operation to be done so quickly that we made a page here so you can learn what is going on and why we do the things we do.
Section 4: More Important Information - and - Finding the Parathyroid Tumor
Age Distribution of Parathyroid Disease. Although hyperparathyroidism occurs most commonly in people over 50, young people get it too. This page shows who gets hyperparathyroidism and how common it is for all age groups.
Osteoporosis occurs because the parathyroid tumor takes calcium out of your bones. Remove the tumor and regain bone density and bone strength. This kind of osteoporosis is nearly 100% reversible.
Kidney Stones occur very commonly in patients with hyperparathyroidism. The longer you have hyperparathyroidism, the higher your chances of getting kidney stones. Everyone with kidney stones should be tested for a parathyroid tumor.
Causes of Parathyroid Tumors This page is advanced and discusses why and how the parathyroid glands develop into tumors. Don't start here, it will confuse you. Get the app--it will tell you what your problem is!
Surgery Cure Rates The cure rate following parathyroid surgery can be dramatically altered by the experience of the surgeon. Even the New York Times has written about this problem. Be careful about choosing your surgeon for your parathyroid operation.
Causes of High Blood Calcium It is never normal to have a high blood calcium. We discuss the different diseases that can cause your blood calcium to go high. Read this if your doctor told you that your high calcium might be caused by cancer - you do not have cancer - you have hyperparathyroidism.
Hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia means high blood calcium. This page includes a cool calculator widget that will give you the exact upper limit of blood calcium for YOU based upon your age. If you have mild or even intermittent hypercalcemia, you need to know why.
Finding the Bad Parathyroid Gland Parathyroid glands are normally very small and can be very hard to find. Your surgeon's experience is the most important factor in finding the bad parathyroid gland--so please do NOT emphasize the scans discussed on these page. The biggest mistake EVERYBODY makes is that they worry about the parathyroid scan and believe the scan. Parathyroid scans are wrong more than they are right folks! It is not about the scan... It is about the skill and experience of your surgeon. Also discusses the dangers of parathyroid needle biopsy.
Sestamibi Scanning is a very poor way to determine which parathyroid gland has developed a tumor. This test is wrong more than it is right. The scan is very dependent upon experience of the people doing it. If your scan is negative (and most are), forget you ever had it. If it is positive, then it is wrong about 60% of the time. Remember, you don't care about the scan--you care about the skill and experience of your surgeon. Stop getting scans! We prefer negative scans--those are often the easiest operations.
Do I Have Just One Bad Parathyroid Gland? is the most common question ever asked. About 70 percent of patients have just one bad parathyroid gland (a single tumor) and three normal parathyroid glands. About 30% have two bad glands, which is why your surgeon should look at all four of them!
Parathyroid Anatomy is described on this page. If you understand parathyroid anatomy you will understand why parathyroid surgery requires a lot of experience. The more experience your surgeon has, the higher the chance of cure and the lower the chance of complications.
Needing a Second Operation -- About 20% of people need a second parathyroid operation because a surgeon with too little experience could not find the parathyroid tumor, or because their surgeon took out one parathyroid tumor and did not check the other three glands. We perform between 2 and 4 re-operations every day. 16% of our business is re-operative surgery after a failed operation somewhere else.
Section 5: Rare Parathyroid Problems
Do NOT start here--these are rare problems
Parathyroid Cancer is extremely RARE. Do not start reading this web site here! Less than 1 in 7000 of parathyroid tumors are cancers. A lot of people read this page, but really nobody should read it because parathyroid cancer is so rare... you don't have it! Go to a different page.
Thyroid Cancer. Most people with a parathyroid tumor will have a thyroid nodule. We check everybody's thyroid to make sure everything is OK before we quit the parathyroid operation. Learn about thyroid cancer that occurs in people with hyperparathyroidism and what we do about it. For detailed info on thyroid cancer, visit our sister site ThyroidCancer.com
Development of OTHER types of cancer due to Hyperparathyroidism. People who don't treat their hyperparathyroidism have a higher (sometimes dramatically higher) chance of developing Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, and to a lesser extent, Colon and Kidney cancer. This is discussed at the bottom of our page of Symptoms. Parathyroid disease should not be "observed".
FHH is a very rare genetic problem with high blood calcium and low urine calcium. If you have never heard of FHH, then do not read this page. This is for people who were told they have FHH because their 24-hour urine calcium is low--99.9% chance you do not have FHH.
Secondary Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands become overactive because of something else. Kidney failure is almost always the cause. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is never associated with high blood calcium.
HypOparathyroidism is an uncommon complication of parathyroid or thyroid surgery--when all the parathyroids have been removed. This is HypO = too little. This is almost always due to removal of all 4 parathyroid glands by a surgeon with little experience.
Surgeon-Induced HypOparathyroidism. The world's largest study of patients who were made hypoparathyroid by a surgeon who mistakenly removed all of their parathyroid glands.
Sensipar: Treating Parathyroid Disease with Sensipar. Sensipar (Cinacalcet) is a drug made for patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism due to kidney failure who are on dialysis. It does not work for primary hyperparathyroidism (what this entire web site is about), and often makes patients worse. Sensipar should NOT be used if your calcium is high.
Life Insurance Companies know that untreated hyperparathyroidism is associated with a decrease in life expectancy. Airplane pilots have their license suspended if they have high calcium. So why is your doctor "watching" your high calcium?
MEN Syndromes are a rare familial disorder where three endocrine glands develop tumors, including the parathyroid glands. This is also very rare... so don't spend too much time worrying about this.
Music Video! Watch this amazing music video produced by one of our patients. FUN!
Read about Dr Norman and his amazing team of surgeons. Dr Norman developed modern parathyroid surgery.
Read our Parathyroid Blog. There are lots of very good stories on the blog.
Testimonials from thousands of parathyroid patients.
Read the stories of over 2,000 patients with hyperparathyroidism; what they have to say about their disease and how it affected their lives.
Become Our Patient. People from around the world have surgery with us every day--over 80 per week.
See our Map of where our patients come from. We have likely operated on somebody that lives down the street from you. People love the map!
Get the Calcium-Pro 5-star rated app that our experts developed. Monitor your calcium, PTH, vitamin D, and osteoporosis and diagnose hyperparathyroidism. Download for Apple or Android phones/tablets. The app will help you know more than your doctors. Top 3 medical app for 2014, 15, 16, and 17!
This site is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation regulating accurate and authoritative healthcare websites. This site complies to the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify.