Hypercalcemia

What is hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia is a water-electrolyte disorder consisting of excess calcium in the blood, above 10.5 mg/dL. As a consequence, hypercalcemia can lead to increased gastrin production, peptic ulcers and heart rhythm disorders.

What are the symptoms of hypercalcemia?

Symptoms may vary depending on the cause, but the main symptoms are:

  • More frequent urination and increased thirst.
  • Lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or constipation.
  • Bone pain
  • Feeling tired, fatigued or confused
  • Muscle spasms or weakness

What causes hypercalcemia?

Parathyroid hormone and vitamin D are responsible for controlling the balance of calcium in the body. The most common cause of hypercalcemia is excess parathyroid hormone. This may be due either to an enlargement of the parathyroid glands or to a tumor in one of the glands, which most of the time are benign.

Behind this hypercalcemia there may also be some conditions such as hereditary disorders, hyperparathyroidism, renal failure, lung cancer, excess of vitamin D, tuberculosis, among others.

Can hypercalcemia be prevented?

Most of the causes of hypercalcemia cannot be prevented. However, several measures can be taken to prevent its occurrence if it is due to excess calcium in the diet:

  • Consult with the physician if calcium and vitamin D supplements should be avoided.
  • Drink enough fluids
  • Control nausea and vomiting.
  • Control fever
  • Frequent walking

How is hypercalcemia treated?

Treatment usually focuses on the cause of its occurrence. In case the origin is primary hyperparathyroidism, surgery may be performed to remove the affected parathyroid gland.

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If the hypercalcemia is mild, it can be controlled by taking the measures explained above. On the other hand, if it is severe and produces symptoms, the following treatments can be performed:

  • Fluids administered through a vein.
  • Dialysis (if kidney-related)
  • Calcitonin
  • Drugs to stop the breakdown and absorption of bones
  • Diuretics
  • Glucocorticoids