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Parathyroid adenoma

Definition

A parathyroid adenoma is a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the parathyroid glands, which are located in the neck.

Causes

The parathyroid glands in the neck help control calcium use and removal by the body. They do this by producing parathyroid hormone, or PTH. PTH helps control calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels in the blood and bone.

Parathyroid adenomas can be due to a genetic problem. Parathyroid adenomas are the most common cause of hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid glands), which leads to increased blood calcium levels.

Women over age 60 have the highest risk for developing this condition. Radiation to your head or neck also increases your risk.

Symptoms

Many people have no symptoms. The condition is often discovered when blood tests are done for another medical reason.

Symptoms that may occur include:

Exams and Tests

Blood tests are done to check the levels of parathyroid hormone, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.

A 24-hour urine test may be done to check for increased calcium in the urine.

Other tests include:

  • Bone density exam
  • Kidney ultrasound or CT scan (may show kidney stones)
  • Kidney x-rays (may show kidney stones)
  • MRI
  • Neck ultrasound
  • Sestamibi neck scan (may show swelling of the parathyroid glands)

Treatment

Surgery is the most common treatment, and it often cures the condition. However, some people choose to only have regular check-ups with their health care provider if the condition is mild.

Some medical treatments can also improve the condition. Your health care provider may ask you to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. Postmenopausal women may want to discuss treatment with estrogen.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook is generally good.

Possible Complications

Osteoporosis and the increased risk for bone fractures is the most common concern.

Other complications are less common, but may include:

Complications from surgery include:

  • Damage to a nerve that controls your voice
  • Damage to the parathyroid glands, which causes hypoparathyroidism (lack of enough parathyroid hormone) and low calcium levels

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of this condition.

References

Bringhurst FR, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Disorders of mineral metabolism. In: Kronenberg HM, Schlomo M, Polansky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. St. Louis, MO: WB Saunders; 2008:chap. 27.

Wysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. The parathyroid glands, hypercalcemia, and hypocalcemia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 253.

Wysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. The parathyroid glands, hypercalcemia, and hypocalcemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Schlomo M, Polansky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. St. Louis, MO: WB Saunders; 2008:chap. 266.


Review Date: 8/5/2014
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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