Hyperparathyroidism is the main disease of the parathyroid glands affecting 1 in 800 people during their lifetime, and 1 in 250 women over 50. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when one (or more) of the four parathyroid glands grows into a tumor and behaves inappropriately by constantly making excess parathyroid hormone (PTH) regardless of the level of calcium. This excess PTH will cause far too much calcium to be removed from the bones causing osteoporosis (often quite severe osteoporosis). The calcium is released out of the bones into the blood, thus most people with hyperparathyroidism have high blood calcium. In fact, almost every person with high blood calcium (even a little bit too high) will have a parathyroid tumor as the cause. Thus, hyperparathyroidism is a disease caused by one or more parathyroid tumors that secrete too much PTH which results in high blood calcium, which in turn causes a number of other health problems.
Hyperparathyroidism is a disease caused by a single hormone-secreting parathyroid tumor in about 70% of people, and by two or more parathyroid tumors in about 30%. Parathyroid tumors are called “parathyroid adenomas” which are typically about the size of a peanut, almond, or olive, much larger than a normal parathyroid gland which is the size of a grain of rice. Although these parathyroid tumors are small, they are very powerful because they secrete excess parathyroid hormone—a very powerful hormone. The excess parathyroid hormone has a detrimental effect on many places in our bodies: heart, bones, brain, kidneys, intestines, stomach, and even our blood vessels.
Hyperparathyroidism is a hormone disease, not a cancer problem—however having hyperparathyroidism often causes very serious health problems and can even increase the risk of several types of cancers. People with hyperparathyroidism typically develop a number of other problems (described in other sections of this learning center) that combine to decrease their quality of life and even decrease their life expectancy by 5 or 6 years. This little tumor will typically make people feel bad and ruin their health if not removed.
Because hyperparathyroidism is caused by a tumor, the disease can be cured completely by removal of the tumor (or tumors) that are the cause of the disease. Since we have 4 parathyroid glands, removing one, two, or even three of them causes no problems so long as a part of one parathyroid gland remains to help control the calcium.
Hyperparathyroidism discussed here and within this entire app is more accurately called “Primary Hyperparathyroidism” because the disease is caused by the parathyroid glands themselves and not because the parathyroid glands have been injured by some other cause (like kidney failure which is called “Secondary Hyperparathyroidism”).
For more detailed information on this topic: http://www.parathyroid.com/parathyroid-disease.htm