What is hyperphosphatemia?

People with high levels of phosphate in their body have a condition called hyperphosphatemia. Phosphate contains a mineral called phosphorous. It's in many foods. These include beans, nuts, cereals, milk, eggs, beef, chicken and fish. When you eat phosphorous-rich foods, your body absorbs this mineral. It uses the mineral to keep your bones and teeth healthy, get energy and produce cell membranes. 

Normally, your kidneys regulate the amount of phosphorous inside your body. They get rid of excess amounts through urine. But your kidneys might become unable to regulate phosphate. It may build up in your body and cause hyperphosphatemia.

Causes of hyperphosphatemia

Kidney failure is the main cause of hyperphosphatemia. When you have kidney failure, your kidneys lose their ability to remove waste from and balance fluids in your body. That means they can also become less able to remove the phosphate in your body.

Certain conditions can also cause hyperphosphatemia. These include: 

Hypocalcemia: Low levels of calcium

Hypoparathyroidism: A hormone condition

Kidney damage: Kidneys aren't working properly

Uncontrolled diabetes: High levels of blood sugar

Diabetic ketoacidosis: A diabetic condition that occurs when insulin levels are low

Mineral or bone disorder: With minerals out of balance, the body can’t regulate certain vital functions

Risk factors for hyperphosphatemia

Hyperphosphatemia is often related to your kidney function. That's why the risk factors for the condition are similar to those for people with kidney problems. These risk factors include: 

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High calcium levels
  • Autoimmune disease
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Kidney stones or infections
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels to your kidneys

Symptoms of hyperphosphatemia

Typically, hyperphosphatemia might not give you symptoms. It's more likely that symptoms from another condition, one that's likely causing hyperphosphatemia, will appear first. The conditions that lead to hyperphosphatemia may cause the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling around the mouth
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weak bones
  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes

Diagnosis of hyperphosphatemia

If you're feeling any of the symptoms above, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can review your medical history. They'll ask about your symptoms and do an exam. You may need to do tests to see what's causing the problem. Doctors diagnose this condition through several tests. These can include:

Phosphate Blood Test. Your doctor may ask you to fast before taking a sample of your blood to test phosphate levels. High levels are in an indicator of hyperphosphatemia.

X-ray. Hyperphosphatemia is linked to bone disorders that can cause hardening in your veins. Your doctor may want X-rays. These pictures can show built-up deposits in your body. 

Urine test. Hyperphosphatemia is a sign that your kidneys aren't working to remove excess phosphate through urine. Your doctor may request a urine test. Rather than leaving one sample, you may need to collect samples over 24 hours to get an accurate look at your phosphate levels.

Treatments for hyperphosphatemia

Treatment depends on what's causing your hyperphosphatemia. Doctors will work to find the cause. Then they can treat that condition. Causes and their treatments include:

Hormone disorder: diet changes and hormone supplements

Uncontrolled diabetes: a combination of diet, exercise and insulin

Kidney damage: diet changes and medications to keep your bones from weakening

Doctors may also prescribe a phosphate binder. This reduces the amount of phosphate that your body can absorb from foods you eat. These binders include:

  • Calcium acetate
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Lanthanum or Fosrenol
  • Sevelamer hydrochloride or Renagel

Recovery from hyperphosphatemia

High phosphate levels can lead to serious health conditions without treatment. These range from diabetes to kidney disease. You may need ongoing treatment to keep your body from developing this condition. There are treatments that can help you manage hyperphosphatemia and other underlying problems.

As with many conditions, early treatment is best. Your treatments will likely include diet changes, medicines and treatments like dialysis. These can help you keep the condition under control. They may even prevent further damage.

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