Calcium is a mineral needed for bone health, muscle movement, and nerve function. Hypercalcemia is higher than normal levels of calcium in your blood.
High levels can cause several problems throughout the body. Long-term high calcium levels can also lead to kidney stones.
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Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium from food or supplements. Once in your body, calcium may be stored in the bones or exist in the blood and cells. Levels of calcium in the blood are normally regulated by hormones from the parathyroid gland. Calcium is excreted through the kidneys.
Hypercalcemia may occur if an illness or medication interferes with this process or destroys bone and other tissue releasing extra calcium into the blood .The most common causes of hypercalcemia are cancer or an overactive parathyroid gland.
Dehydration can also cause temporary hypercalcemia. Decreased fluid in the blood causes an increase in concentration, but not amount of calcium.
Factors that may interfere with hormones and lead to hypercalcemia include: Certain types of brain cancerParathyroid problemsCertain disorders such as adrenal insufficiency and acromegalyCertain medications such as lithium
Factors that may increase the amount of calcium in the body or blood include: Excess vitamin D and/or vitamin A supplements—increases absorption of calcium and release of calcium from the bones into the bloodCertain medications, including diuretics that reduce the amount of calcium eliminated and calcium-containing antacidsCertain diseases associated with inflammation such as sarcoidosis, berylliosis, or tuberculosisHodgkin lymphoma
Other factors that may increase your risk of hypercalcemia include: Cancer or treatment for cancer—causes release of calcium from damaged cells or bonesGenetic disordersPhosphate deficiency in newbornsKidney disease or failure—cannot get rid of calcium
Symptoms may include: Bone painMuscle weaknessConstipationNausea and vomitingIrregular heartbeatFatigueAppetite loss and weight lossAbdominal pain Difficulty concentrating and memory problemsItching
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids will be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsUrine tests
If hypercalcemia is associated with a parathyroid problem or cancer your doctor may need images with: X-rayUltrasoundCT scanMRI scan
Other tests may be done to look for any effects of hypercalcemia such as: An ECG to check electrical activity of your heart A bone mineral density test to measure the amount of calcium in an area of your bone
Treatment will depend on the cause of hypercalcemia. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
IV fluids may be given to help flush out the excess calcium.
Medication may also be given to control the condition causing the problem or to encourage removal of calcium from the blood. Medication options may include: BisphosphonatesCalcitoninGlucocorticoids
Other treatments depend on the cause of your hypercalcemia but may include: Limiting your intake of calcium and vitamin D. You may be referred to a dietitian.Parathyroid surgery may be needed to treat hypercalcemia in patients with hyperparathyroidism.Dialysis—for severe cases of hypercalcemia due to kidney failure.
To help reduce your chance of getting hypercalcemia your doctor may: Treat any underlying causes, such as hyperparathyroidismUse bisphosphonates when there is cancer in the bones
Carroll M, Schade D. A practical approach to hypercalcemia. Am Fam Physician. 2003 May 1;67(9):1959-1966.
Hypercalcemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 18, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Hypercalcaemia. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Hypercalcaemia.htm. Updated January 13, 2014. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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