Hypoparathyroidism (or Hypopara for short) is a rare endocrine condition in which insufficient or inactive levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) are produced by the four tiny parathyroid glands in your neck.
It may be due to a congenital, genetic or autoimmune disorder which affects the function of the parathyroid glands or, more commonly, it may occur as the temporary or permanent result of surgery to the neck where there is removal of, or damage to, the glands.
Insufficient PTH leads to low calcium levels in the blood, or hypocalcaemia. It causes electrolyte imbalance and can be a life threatening condition if untreated.
Why is calcium so important? Calcium is vital to life and affects every cell in the body. Most people know about teeth and nails in connection with calcium but its effects are on the whole body - nerves, muscles and organs. It helps blood to clot and is important in energy production. Calcium is crucial to us which is why the body has special mechanisms like the parathyroid glands to keep calcium levels constant. Calcium disorders can greatly affect quality of life as symptoms are felt physically, cognitively and emotionally.
Treatment with vitamin D analogues and calcium supplements is not ideal and can lead to long term problems, particularly renal damage. Calcium levels fluctuate but home calcium testers are not available so monitoring this condition can be very challenging. Until 2015, hypoparathyroidism was the only endocrine condition without its own replacement hormone. Injectable parathyroid hormone now exists but access remains a considerable problem.