Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Endocrine glands
Endocrine glands

Definition    Return to top

Hypercalcemia is too much calcium in the blood.

Causes    Return to top

Calcium is important to many body functions including:

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D regulate calcium balance in the body. PTH is produced by the parathyroid glands -- four small glands located in the neck behind the thyroid gland. Vitamin D is obtained when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and from dietary sources such as:

Primary hyperparathyroidism is the most common cause of hypercalcemia and is due to excess PTH. This excess occurs due to an enlargement of one or more of the parathyroid glands.

Other medical conditions can also lead to hypercalcemia:

Hypercalcemia affects a very small percentage of the population. The widespread ability to measure blood calcium since the 1960s has improved detection of the condition, and today most patients with hypercalcemia have no symptoms.

Women over the age of 50 are most likely to have hypercalcemia, usually due to primary hyperparathyroidism.

Symptoms    Return to top






Exams and Tests    Return to top

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment is directed at the cause of hypercalcemia whenever possible. In cases of hyperparathyroidism, surgery may be needed to remove the abnormal parathyroid gland and cure the hypercalcemia.

If your hypercalcemia is mild and caused by primary hyperparathyroidism, your health care provider will follow you closely over time.

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

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

How well you do depends on the cause of hypercalcemia. Patients with mild hyperparathyroidism or hypercalcemia with a treatable cause (for example, primary hyperparathyroidism or dietary hypervitaminosis D) may not have complications.

Patients with hypercalcemia due to conditions such as cancer or granulomatous disease may not do well due to the disease itself, rather than to the hypercalcemia.

Possible Complications    Return to top





The complications of long-term hypercalcemia are uncommon today.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Contact your physician or health care provider if you have:

Prevention    Return to top

Most causes of hypercalcemia cannot be prevented. Women over the age of 50 should see their health care provider regularly and have their blood calcium screened periodically.

You can avoid hypercalcemia from calcium and vitamin D supplements by contacting your health care provider for advice if you are taking supplements without a prescription.

References    Return to top

Taniegra ED. Hyperparathyroidism. Am Fam Physician. 2004; 69(2): 333-9.

Carroll MF. A practical approach to hypercalcemia. Am Fam Physician. 2003; 67(9): 959-66.

Ariyan CE. Assessment and management of patients with abnormal calcium. Crit Care Med. 2004; 32(4 Suppl): S146-54.

Bringhurst R, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Hormones and Disorders of Mineral Metabolism. In: Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 27.

Update Date: 3/18/2008

Updated by: Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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