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Parathyroid glands

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Removing parathyroid glands can correct hormone imbalance

The parathyroid glands are two pairs of small, oval-shaped glands located next to the two thyroid gland lobes in your neck.

Most parathyroid surgery is done for hyperparathyroidism, when a gland becomes enlarged and secretes too much hormone, upsetting the balance of calcium and phosphorus in your body.

If you have hyperparathyroidism, you may not have any symptoms; or you could experience symptoms including constant fatigue, general aches and pains, nausea, confusion and memory loss, excessive urination and high blood pressure. In this situation, the enlarged gland is typically removed. Novant Health surgeons can usually remove the gland through a very small incision in the neck.

Other parathyroid gland disorders


Hypoparathyroidism occurs when 1 or more of your parathyroid glands are underactive. You have 4 of these tiny glands. Each one is about the size of a grain of rice. They are found in your neck, next to the thyroid gland. They keep the amount of calcium in your blood in a normal range. They also keep the levels of magnesium and phosphorus normal. If these glands are underactive, they do not make enough parathyroid hormone (PTH). This lowers the level of calcium in your blood. The most common cause is injury to or removal of all 4 parathyroid glands. That can accidentally happen during surgery to remove the thyroid. Some people are born without these glands. Or the glands do not work as well for unknown reasons.

What are symptoms of hypoparathyroidism? Symptoms are different for each person. These are the most common ones:

  • Uncontrollable, painful spasms of your face, hands, arms, and feet
  • A burning or prickling feeling (pins and needles) in your hands and feet, and around your mouth
  • These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Parathyroid tumors

A parathyroid tumor is a growth inside a parathyroid gland. The parathyroid glands are 4 small, pea-sized glands located in your neck near the thyroid gland. They’re part of the endocrine system. This system controls hormones in your body. The parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone. This regulates the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. Parathyroid tumors may increase the levels of parathyroid hormones. This leads to more calcium in your blood. This is called hypercalcemia. Most parathyroid tumors are benign (noncancerous) adenomas. Parathyroid cancers are very rare.

Surgery is the main treatment for parathyroid tumors. The goal is to remove as much of it as possible. Before surgery, you may need treatment to control the amount of calcium in your blood. In some cases, a parathyroid tumor doesn’t need to be taken out. It may only need to be removed if your calcium level has reached a certain point or if you have severe symptoms. If the tumor is cancer, you may need radiation therapy. This is done to kill the cancer cells or help keep them from growing and spreading. Chemotherapy may also be used to help do the same thing. In some situations, you may need medicines that lower calcium levels in your blood.