Hypercalcemia

One of the most abundant elements in our body is ‘calcium’. More than 98 percent of the calcium is found in our skeletal system (bones). Its vital function is to build and maintain the bones and teeth. It also helps in contraction of muscles and the transmission of the nerve signals.

When there is a too much concentration of calcium in your blood than the required amounts, then the condition is termed as ‘hypercalcemia’. In the case of hypercalcemia, it is harder for the body to carry out the functions.

There are many causes for hypercalcemia, some of them include:

Hyperparathyroidism

The most common cause of hypercalcemia is hyperparathyroidism, mainly in the women above 50 years of age. When the parathyroid glands are hyperactive, they release more amounts of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Because of this too much of calcium is regulated in the body leading to hypercalcemia.

Cancers and lung disease

Certain diseases such as tuberculosis can cause the levels of vitamin D to rise. As vitamin D absorbs more amounts of calcium, the calcium levels in the blood are raised.

Cancer types such as lung, breast, and blood cancers also can raise the levels of calcium in your body.

Dietary supplements

Administering too much of vitamin D supplements and calcium may increase your blood calcium levels and make you develop hypercalcemia.

Drugs

Certain drugs such as diuretics may increase the levels of calcium in the blood due to fluid excretion and calcium retention. Some drugs such as lithium may increase the release of PTH which can lead to hypercalcemia.

Dehydration

In dehydration, your body excretes the body fluids, and this causes a raise in the blood calcium levels resulting in hypercalcemia.

In mild cases there would not be any symptoms, but as the severity increases there would be a complex impact on vital organs of your body which includes:

Kidneys: When there is excess calcium in the blood, the workload on your kidneys will increase. This causes excess thirst and frequent urination.

Digestive tract: You may experience nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Bones and muscles: You may feel bone pain, and weakness

Brain: You may feel lethargic, fatigue, and finally confused due to hypercalcemia.

You must call your doctor when you experience the symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, and abdominal pain.

Your doctor would first order for a blood test to understand the level of calcium in the serum. In the case of high calcium levels, your doctor would order for some more tests to find out the cause. Your doctor would order few tests to check for the evidence of cancer or other underlying causes of hypercalcemia. Other tests may include:

MRI scan – to produce detailed images of organs

Chest X-rays – to detect the presence of lung cancer

Mammograms – to diagnose the presence of breast cancer

CT scan – to understand the detailed image of your body

Hypercalcemia treatment includes:

  • Bisphosphonates – inhibit bone reabsorption
  • Denosumab – to treat hypercalcemia of malignancy
  • Loop diuretics – to treat extremely high calcium levels and prevent irregular heart rhythms and damage to nervous system
  • Peritoneal or hemodialysis – to treat hypercalcemia associated with severe malignancy and renal insufficiency
  • Isotonic sodium chloride solution – to treat extreme high calcium levels

Surgical intervention

If the cause of hypercalcemia is due to hyperparathyroidism, then your surgeon would locate the overactive gland and surgically corrects it.

With the small lifestyle modifications, you may prevent the risk of damage to vital organs that are affected by hypercalcemia.

  • Quit smoking as it may increase your risk of bone loss.
  • Consume soy products, rice or almond milk instead of dairy products (high calcium foods).
  • Drink plenty of fluids as it helps in avoiding dehydration and preventing the formation of kidney stones.
  • Maintain your bone’s density by performing regular exercise after your calcium reaches to normal levels.