The parathyroid glands in the throat make a hormone (PTH), which regulates the amounts of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in the bones and blood. Problems include overactivity (hyperparathyroidism) and underactivity (hypoparathyroidism).


Around one in every 2,000 people has overactive parathyroids, or hyperparathyroidism. Women aged 50 years and over are more likely to develop the condition. The glands make too much hormone and allow the calcium levels in the blood to rise. Meanwhile, the bones are robbed of vital calcium and the kidneys are placed under great strain. Up to 50 per cent of patients with hyperparathyroidism present with symptoms due to kidney stones.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may include:

  • Pain in the bones and joints
  • Increased susceptibility to bone fractures
  • Shrinking height
  • Backache
  • Muscle aches
  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression and other personality changes


Hypoparathyroidism is characterised by low levels of PTH, which decreases the amount of calcium in the blood. Nerve and muscles cells are unable to function properly. Causes of hypoparathyroidism include magnesium deficiency, injury to the glands, surgery on the nearby thyroid gland, genetic disorder or the congenital lack of parathyroid glands.

Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism include:

  • Pins and needles
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry, roughened skin
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Convulsions