885069 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Hypocalcemia

    Definition

    Calcium is a mineral needed for bone health, muscle movement, and nerve function. Hypocalcemia is lower than normal levels of calcium in your blood.

    Causes

    Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium from food or supplements. Once in your body, calcium may be stored in the bones or exist in the blood. It may also be excreted through the kidneys. Levels of calcium in the blood are normally regulated by hormones from the parathyroid gland. Hypocalcemia may occur if an illness or medication interferes with this process. The most common cause of hypocalcemia is kidney failure.
    Kidney Damage
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may interfere with hormones and can lead to hypocalcemia include:
    • Thyroid problems
    • Previous thyroid surgery
    • Autoimmune disease
    • Certain types of cancer
    • Genetic disorders
    Factors that may decrease your intake of calcium include:
    • Lack of vitamin D in the diet or through sunlight exposure
    • Lack of magnesium in the diet
    • Digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease
    • Certain medications such as diuretics or laxatives
    Other factors that may increase your risk of hypocalcemia include:
    • Inflammation of the pancreas
    • Kidney disease or failure—too much calcium excreted
    • Certain medications such as bisphosphonates—move calcium to the bones

    Symptoms

    Early hypocalcemia may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
    • Muscle spasms
    • Tingling and numbness
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Fatigue
    • Skin changes such as dry, scaly skin
    • Coarse hair that easily breaks
    • Difficulty breathing in newborns

    Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests, possibly including genetic testing
    • Urine tests
    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with X-rays.
    The electrical activity of your heart may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG).

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

    Medications

    You may be given supplements through an IV or pills. Supplements may include:
    • Calcium
    • Magnesium
    • Vitamin D
    Medications may also be given to control the condition causing the problem or to increase the amount of calcium in the blood. Medication options may include:
    • Thiazide diuretics to decrease the amount of calcium lost through urination
    • Parathyroid hormone to treat chronic hypoparathyroidism
    Your current medications may be changed if they are the cause of your hypocalcemia.

    Other Supportive Steps

    Your doctor may advise you to increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D. You may be referred to a dietitian.

    Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting hypocalcemia, take these steps:
    • Eat a diet that contains enough calcium and vitamin D. This is especially important during pregnancy.
    • Take calcium or vitamin D supplements if advised by your doctor.
    • Manage conditions such as chronic kidney disease and hypoparathyroidism.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org

    American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists http://www.aace.com

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism http://www.endo-metab.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    References

    Cooper M, Gittoes N. Diagnosis and management of hypocalcaemia. BMJ. 2008 June 7;336(7656):1298-1302.

    Hypocalcemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 7, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.

    Hypocalcaemia. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Hypocalcaemia.htm. Updated December 14, 2011. Accessed January 8, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.