Hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is caused by an enlarged parathyroid gland which causes blood calcium levels to rise. The only effective treatment for this condition is surgical removal of the affected gland.
HPT is usually easily diagnosed by a combination of two blood tests – blood calcium levels, and blood levels of the hormone produced by parathyroid glands, called parathyroid hormone (PTH). In addition a urine calcium test is usually performed to verify the diagnosis.
Because of the way in which parathyroid glands affect calcium levels, people with HPT may develop multiple complications of the disease. These include bone thinning (osteoporosis) which may lead to bone fractures with minor injury, kidney stones, stomach ulcers, heart problems and high blood pressure.
Having a higher than normal blood calcium level can lead to many symptoms including tiredness and lethargy, muscle and joint aches and pains, excessive thirst, headaches and depression or irritability. Often these symptoms are put down to growing old or other medical problems. If these symptoms are caused by HPT, however, then successful surgery often makes the person feel much better after the operation.
Indeed, studies have shown that even a proportion of patients who complain of no specific symptoms before surgery will feel symptomatically better after successful surgery. Mr Hardy has audited the effect of surgery on symptoms in his own patients with HPT and has found this to be true in most patients.
In Mr Hardy’s opinion all patients with HPT should be assessed by a surgeon who is skilled in its surgical treatment, as even if they have no symptoms, they will likely develop problems over the course of time if the problem is left untreated.