Conditions & Treatments

Hypoparathyroidism

Underactive parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormones. This causes low levels of calcium in the blood.

Hypoparathyroidism

What is hypoparathyroidism?

Hypoparathyroidism is caused by underactive parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands are four small glands located next to the thyroid. They are responsible for regulating blood calcium levels as well as magnesium and phosphorus levels. If the parathyroid glands do not produce or secrete enough parathyroid hormone (PTH), it will result in low levels of calcium in the bloodstream. The low levels of calcium lead to muscle spasms, or tetany, an increased excitability of the nerves, and disturbances in heart rhythm.

The most common cause of hypoparathyroidism is injury to or accidental removal of all four glands during a removal of the thyroid. Some people are born without parathyroid glands or the glands function suddenly decline due to unknown reasons.

Illustration of the thyroid gland and its location as well as the parathyroid glands, voicebox (larynx), artery, vein, windpipe and laryngeal nerve.
Thyroid Gland - Click to Enlarge

What are symptoms of hypoparathyroidism?

The following are the most common symptoms of hypoparathyroidism. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Uncontrollable, painful spasms of the face, hands, arms, and feet

  • A burning or prickling sensation ("pins and needles") in the hands and feet, and around the mouth

The symptoms of hypoparathyroidism may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is hypoparathyroidism diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, diagnostic procedures for hypoparathyroidism may include blood tests to measure calcium and parathyroid hormone levels. Other tests may also be done.

How is hypoparathyroidism treated?

Treatment may include an injection of calcium to provide immediate relief and/or taking calcium and vitamin D tablets throughout the day for the rest of the your life.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

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