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Hypoparathyroidism in Children

What is hypoparathyroidism?

Hypoparathyroidism is when the parathyroid glands don’t make enough parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid glands are 4 tiny glands on the thyroid. The hormone they make helps manage levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Low levels of the hormone leads to low levels of calcium. This can lead to muscle spasms and cramping, called tetany.

What causes hypoparathyroidism?

Causes can include:

  • Accidental removal of part or all of a parathyroid gland during thyroid surgery
  • A baby born without parathyroid glands

In some cases, the cause is unknown.

Who is at risk for hypoparathyroidism?

A child is at risk for if he or she has any of these:

  • Previous surgery on the neck or thyroid gland
  • An autoimmune disease
  • Family history of hypoparathyroidism
  • Preterm birth

What are the symptoms of hypoparathyroidism?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Numbness around the mouth or in hands or feet 
  • Uncontrollable, painful spasms of the face, hands, arms, and feet
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Unstable emotions, anxiety, or depression
  • Dental problems
  • Coarse, brittle hair 

The symptoms of hypoparathyroidism can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is hypoparathyroidism diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have blood tests. These are done to measure the levels of salts and parathyroid hormone in the blood.

How is hypoparathyroidism treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will consider his or her age, overall health, and other factors when advising treatment. Your child may need to see a pediatric endocrinologist. This is a doctor with extra training in treating children with hormone problems.

Treatment may include an injection of calcium. This can give relief of symptoms right away. Your child may also need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements for life.

What are possible complications of hypoparathyroidism?

If untreated, the condition can cause serious complications such as:

  • Uncontrollable, painful muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart failure
  • Stunted growth
  • Dental defects
  • Cataracts

How to manage hypoparathyroidism

Hypoparathyroidism after neck surgery may go away on its own. But it is usually a life-long condition. Work with your child's healthcare providers to create an ongoing plan to manage your child’s condition.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has any symptoms of hypoparathyroidism.

Key points about hypoparathyroidism

  • Hypoparathyroidism is when the parathyroid glands don’t make enough parathyroid hormone. The hormone manages levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Low levels of the hormone leads to low levels of calcium.
  • Symptoms can include uncontrollable, painful spasms of the face, hands, arms, and feet.
  • The condition can be caused by accidental removal of part or all of a parathyroid gland during thyroid surgery.               
  • Your child may have blood tests. These are done to measure the levels of salts and parathyroid hormone in the blood.
  • Treatment may include an injection of calcium. This can give relief of symptoms right away. Your child may also need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements for life.
  • Hypoparathyroidism after neck surgery may go away on its own. But it is usually a life-long condition.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/10/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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