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What is Hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia is an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood. A high level is usually more than 10.5 milligrams per deciliter of blood.

In normal situations, the body maintains a balance between the amount of calcium in food sources and the calcium already available in the body's tissues. In hypercalcemia, there is not a balance.

The balance can be disturbed if excess amounts of calcium are eaten or if the body is unable to process the mineral because of disease.

Hypercalcemia may be a symptom of a chronic inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis.

What is Calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that plays an important role in the development and maintenance of the bones. Calcium is also needed in tooth formation and is important in other body functions.

What causes Hypercalcemia?

The most common causes of hypercalcemia are: poor kidney function, hyperparathyroidism, cancer, excessive intake of vitamin D, and therapy for peptic ulcers.

Hyperparathyroidism is the excessive secretion of parathyroid hormone by one or more of the parathyroid glands.

Cancer causes hypercalcemia by increasing calcium levels in the blood and destroying bony tissue.

What can happen when hypercalcemia occurs?

  • Dehydration, loss of body water
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Kidney stones
  • Mental status changes, confusion
  • Coma
  • Irregular heartbeat

How are calcium levels controlled?

Calcium blood levels are controlled by three main methods: Vitamin D hormone and parathyroid hormone (PTH), and kidney function.

  1. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is produced by the four parathyroid glands in the neck. When the level of calcium circulating in the bloodstream decreases, the parathyroid gland releases its hormone PTH. PTH will restore the normal blood calcium level by either stimulating the absorption of more calcium in the intestine; taking calcium from the bone tissue, or instructs the kidneys to excrete more phosphate.
  2. Vitamin D hormone affects the deposit of calcium and phosphate in the bone tissue.
  3. The kidneys also help to control calcium levels.

Treatment options for Hypercalcemia

The style of treatment depends on how high the calcium level is and what is causing hypercalcemia Your doctor will determine which option is best for you.

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