Hypercalcemia is an uncommon medical condition in which abnormally high calcium levels in the blood gradually impair internal organ functioning. The problem can arise as a symptom of many different disorders, including an overactive parathyroid gland, cancer, and kidney failure. Hypercalcemia treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms, but most patients are prescribed medications or hormone supplements to regulate calcium levels. In the case of a parathyroid gland problem, a patient may need to undergo surgery to remove the abnormal gland. Cancer-related hypercalcemia may require a combination of medication, radiation, and surgery to control symptoms and slow the progression of the disorder.
Primary hyperparathyroidism, an overactive parathyroid gland, is the leading cause of hypercalcemia. Healthy glands produce steady amounts of parathyroid hormone (PTH), a chemical that regulates calcium in the blood and bones. Hypercalcemia results when too much PTH is produced and released. If symptoms of primary hyperparathyroidism are minor, a doctor may prescribe one or more medications or hormone supplements to inhibit PTH production and fortify bones that have been robbed of calcium by the bloodstream.
Cinacalcet is a drug that essentially confuses the parathyroid glands. It mimics the chemical actions of calcium in the body, signaling the glands that new PTH does not need to be released. Hormonal supplements and injections containing calcitonin, a chemical that helps metabolize calcium in the body, are also commonly used in mild hypercalcemia treatment. Bisphosphonates are given to restrengthen bone tissue that has been weakened due to PTH pulling calcium from the bones.
If medical hypercalcemia treatment is ineffective, doctors can consider surgery to excise an overactive parathyroid gland. A doctor can make a small incision in the neck and use and endoscope to locate the affected gland or glands. He or she then manipulates surgical instruments to remove the glands and suture surrounding tissue. Surgery may also be necessary if cancer in a parathyroid gland, kidney, adrenal gland, or elsewhere in the body is causing symptoms.
Hospitalization and emergency hypercalcemia treatment are necessary if a patient experiences debilitating pain or slips into a coma. Doctors provide intravenous fluids and medications to rehydrate the body and halt PTH production. Diuretics are given to flush excess calcium from the kidneys and bladder, and a course of bisphosphonates and calcitonin are initiated. In addition, patients who have kidney failure are usually placed on dialysis machines to aid in the breakdown and excretion of calcium from the blood. The prognosis following hypercalcemia treatment can vary depending on the seriousness of complications, but most patients are able to recover when the condition is discovered in its earliest stages.