Hypercalcemia

Definition

Hypercalcemia means you have too much calcium in your blood.

Causes

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and Vitamin D help manage calcium balance in the body.

The most common cause of high calcium blood level is excess PTH released by the parathyroid glands. This excess occurs due to:

Calcium blood level may also be high if your body is low on fluids or water.

Other conditions can also cause hypercalcemia:

Men and women of all ages can have a high blood calcium level. However, it is most common in women over age 50 (after menopause). In most cases, this is due to an overactive parathyroid gland.

Symptoms

The condition is most often diagnosed at an early stage using routine blood tests. Most people have no symptoms.

Symptoms due to high calcium level may vary, depending on the cause and how long the problem has been present. They may include:

Exams and Tests

An accurate diagnosis is needed in hypercalcemia. People with kidney stones should have tests to evaluate for hypercalcemia.

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at the cause of hypercalcemia whenever possible. People with primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) may need surgery to remove the abnormal parathyroid gland. This will cure the hypercalcemia.

People with mild hypercalcemia may be able to monitor the condition closely over time without treatment.

In women who are in menopause, treatment with estrogen can sometimes reverse mild hypercalcemia.

Severe hypercalcemia that causes symptoms and requires a hospital stay may be treated with the following:

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the cause of your high calcium level. The outlook is good for people with mild hyperparathyroidism or hypercalcemia that have a treatable cause. Most of the time, there are no complications.

People with hypercalcemia due to conditions such as cancer or sarcoidosis may not do well. This is most often due to the disease itself, rather than the high calcium level.

Possible Complications

GASTROINTESTINAL

KIDNEY

PSYCHOLOGICAL

SKELETAL

These complications of long-term hypercalcemia are uncommon today in many countries.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if you have:

Prevention

Most causes of hypercalcemia cannot be prevented. Women over age 50 should see their provider regularly and have their blood calcium level checked if they have symptoms of hypercalcemia.

Talk to your provider about the correct dose if you are taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.


Review Date: 2/22/2018
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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