What do parathyroid glands do?

May 2, 2013 Beth Ann Reimel, MD

Our parathyroid glands are four tiny glands that lie in our neck, just to the sides of our thyroid gland. When normal, they are the size of a grain of rice or a small flat bean.

These glands control calcium balance in our bodies. They do this by producing a hormone named parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH acts on our bones, kidneys, and gut to keep the right amount of calcium in the right places.

When one or more of these glands become abnormal, they produce too much of this hormone (PTH). This can cause our bones to be weak from calcium loss. This can also cause kidney stones and decreased kidney function. Often, a person will feel extremely tired and experience memory problems, decreased attention, or “brain fog.”

Your calcium level is the simplest way to screen for parathyroid disease. Routine bloodwork often includes checking the level of calcium in our bloodstream. People with parathyroid disease often have high or high-normal calcium levels. The step after that is to have your PTH level checked.

Here are two reliable sources for more information on parathyroid disease – or ask your health care provider!

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