Hypoparathyroidism in Children
What is hypoparathyroidism in children?
Hypoparathyroidism is when the parathyroid glands don’t make enough parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid glands are 4 tiny glands on the back of the thyroid gland. The hormone they make helps manage levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Low levels of the hormone lead to low levels of calcium. This can lead to muscle spasms and cramping, called tetany.
What causes hypoparathyroidism in a child?
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.
Which children are at risk for hypoparathyroidism?
A child is at risk for hypoparathyroidism if they have 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 in a child?
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
- 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 their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is hypoparathyroidism diagnosed in a child?
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They may also ask about your family’s health history. Your child will have a physical exam. Blood tests will likely be done to measure the levels of salts and parathyroid hormone in the blood.
How is hypoparathyroidism treated in a child?
Your child's healthcare provider will consider the child's 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 calcium given through an IV or through the mouth. This can give relief of symptoms right away. Your child may also need to take vitamin D supplements for life.
What are possible complications of hypoparathyroidism in a child?
If untreated, the condition can cause serious complications, such as:
- Uncontrollable, painful muscle spasms
- Kidney damage
- Heart failure
- Stunted growth
- Dental defects
How can I help my child live with hypoparathyroidism?
Hypoparathyroidism after neck surgery may go away on its own. But it is usually a lifelong 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 in children
- 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 lead 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 will likely have blood tests. These are done to measure the levels of salts and parathyroid hormone in the blood.
- Treatment may include IV 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 lifelong condition.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- 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 healthcare provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.