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Hyperparathyroidism(Overactive Parathyroid)

Hyperparathyroidism is when the body makes too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). The parathyroid glands make PTH which help to keep calcium levels in balance.

Hyperparathyroidism may be:

  • Primary—a benign tumor of the parathyroid gland that makes too much PTH (most common form)
  • Secondary—occurs in people with long-standing kidney failure or a vitamin D deficiency
  • Tertiary—occurs in people with long-standing kidney failure and dialysis

Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands: Posterior (Back) View


Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Primary hyperparathyroidism may be caused by:

  • Noncancerous tumor in the parathyroid gland—most common cause
  • Familial hyperparathyroidism
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)
  • Parathyroid cancer—rare

Secondary hyperparathyroidism may be caused by:

  • Vitamin D deficiency due to inadequate dietary intake, lack of sunlight exposure, or malabsorption condition like celiac disease
  • Kidney failure or other medical problems that make the body resistant to the action of the parathyroid hormone

Enlargement of the parathyroid gland is the main risk factor for tertiary hyperparathyroidism.

Risk Factors

Hyperparathyroidism is more common in women, especially after menopause. It is also more common in people older than 50 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia
  • Having specific genetic factors that increase your risk
  • Radiation therapy to the head or neck during childhood

The level of calcium in the blood will determine the symptoms. Symptoms commonly seen with primary hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Frequent and sometimes painful urination due to kidney stones
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Memory loss
  • Heartburn
  • Back pain

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Ultrasound
  • Technetium 99m sestamibi scan—a nuclear medicine test that uses safe nuclear molecules to make pictures of the parathyroid glands to help locate a single parathyroid adenoma in primary hyperparathyroidism

Other tests may be done to look for other problems hyperparathyroid may cause:


Treatment will be based on the type of hyperparathyroidism. Options may include the following:

  • If a growth is causing the problems, surgery may be done to remove the growth
  • Hyperparthyroidism due to a vitamin D deficiency may be treated with medications
  • Treating underlying causes
  • Medication to manage possible side effects
Monitoring of Blood Calcium Levels

Your doctor may choose to regularly check your blood calcium levels and monitor you for possible complications. This may include regular bone density tests every 1-2 years.


Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake may play a role in preventing hyperparathyroidism in women. Try to get recommended levels of calcium through dietary choices and supplements.


American Association of Endocrine Surgeons

Hormone Health Network—Endocrine Society


Health Canada

Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism


Hyperparathyroidism. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated March 2014. Accessed June 4, 2014.

Hyperparathyroidism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 28, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2014.

Silverberg SJ, Bilezikian JP. The diagnosis and management of asymptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2006;2:494-503.

Taniegra E. Hyperparathyroidism. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(2):333.

11/26/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Paik J, Curhan G, et al. Calcium intake and risk of primary hyperparathyroidism in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2012;345:e6390.

Last reviewed February 2015 by Kim Carmichael, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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