Parathyroids are endocrine glands to balance calcium and phosphorus. Typically, they are four and are grouped in pairs: upper and lower parathyroids. All four glands are positioned behind the thyroid gland.
Parathyroid Glands – Facts
A parathyroid gland has a shape of ovoid and very small dimensions: 5 mm long, 4 mm wide and only 1 mm tall. Together, they weigh up to 0.3 grams. The structure of a parathyroid contains dense groups of cells separated by fibrous connective tissue. The cells that make up this gland are of two types: the main ones and the oxifils. Both secrete a parathyroid hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH).
Parathyroid Glands – Functions
The role of the hormone presented above, parathyroid hormone (PTH) regulates the body metabolism.
It achieves a balance between calcium and phosphorus in the body, stimulating both bone formation at a certain dose and the mobilization of calcium in the skeleton when it decreases its blood concentration.
How does this hormone work?
Parathyroid hormone promotes the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract into the bloodstream and prevents its loss through the urine, thus helping to keep the blood calcium levels within the normal limits. When calcium decreases, the parathyroid hormone extracts calcium from the bones and transfers it to the blood where its presence is essential.
PTH also stimulates the removal of phosphorus via urine.
Parathyroid Glands – Diseases
Commonly, the diseases affecting the parathyroid glands:
- The hyperfunction of the gland (Hyperparathyroidism) – leads to assimilation of bone catabolism, increased calcium, calcium deposition in vessel walls and soft tissues (ligaments, joints, hippocrates), and renal calculus.
- The hypofunction of the gland (Hypoparathyroidism) – leads to neuromuscular hyperexcitability, decreased calcium, muscle cramps, and tetany.
The hyperparathyroidism comes in two forms:
- Primary hyperparathyroidism – It has as its main causes the appearance of a benign tumor called adenoma in one of the 4 glands (the appearance of this tumor in all parathyroid glands is a relatively rare phenomenon) or gland enlargement (hyperplasia). It is sufficient to only have one of the 4 glands affected so that the level of calcium is out of the reference range.
- Secondary hyperparathyroidism – The primary cause for this condition is the low calcium in the body. For this reason, parathyroid glands try to compensate by releasing an abnormally high amount of hormone.
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