The most common causes of hypocalcemia, or low calcium levels in the blood, are things that interfere with the absorption of calcium and release into the bloodstream, such as eating a poor diet or taking certain medications. Things that cause calcium to exit the bloodstream too quickly, like chelation or cancers, are also leading causes. Patients at risk of hypocalcemia may be monitored closely for the early warning signs so that preventative steps can be taken in the event that low blood calcium levels begin to develop.
Hypoparathyroidism is a leading cause of hypocalcemia. People who have had their thyroid glands removed are at risk for hypocalcemia, as are people with other thyroid problems. Other hypocalcemia causes related to a failure to get enough calcium into the bloodstream include imbalances in other electrolytes like magnesium, along with vitamin D deficiencies. People who are not getting enough calcium in their diet or who are consuming foods that interfere with calcium absorption are also at risk of having low calcium levels.
Certain things can cause low calcium levels to develop by depleting the bloodstream of its calcium supplies. Hypocalcemia causes in this category include pancreatitis, chelation, cancers, and renal failure. Other causes of hypocalcemia can include surgery, certain medications such as chemotherapy drugs, and sepsis.
People with low blood calcium can develop muscle twitches, mood changes, seizures, high blood pressure, stomach pain, and dry skin. Prolonged hypocalcemia can lead to congenital heart failure and other medical problems. A simple blood test can be used to check calcium levels along with levels of other electrolytes. If no known hypocalcemia causes are recorded in a patient's history, additional testing to check for problems like hereditary conditions or damage to certain glands may be recommended.
The immediate treatment for severe hypocalcemia is an infusion of calcium to restore a patient's levels. In the long term, calcium supplementation, changes to dietary habits, and treatment of the underlying condition that led to the drop in calcium levels are usually recommended. If no apparent hypocalcemia causes could be identified, follow-up testing may be recommended after a patient spends some time on supplements to see if the problem has been resolved. People who know that they are at risk of hypocalcemia because of common hypocalcemia causes, chronic conditions, or genetic history may want to talk to their doctors about options for keeping their calcium levels in a safe range.