What is hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia is a lack of calcium in your body, specifically in your blood. Calcium helps your body work in a number of ways. It helps your brain rely messages to your body. It also keeps your bones strong and healthy. Not having enough calcium can lead to dental and vision problems and changes in your brain. It can also result in osteoporosis, a condition that makes your bones weak and brittle.
Causes of hypocalcemia
The most common cause of hypocalcemia is a lack of a hormone known as parathyroid hormone (PTH). This substance regulates your body's calcium levels. There are other causes, too. These include:
- Poor diet
- Kidney disease
- Intense exercise
Risk factors for hypocalcemia
Certain people are more at risk for hypocalcemia. If you have the following conditions, you also have a higher risk level for this condition:
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Anxiety disorders
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency
- History of gastrointestinal disorders
Symptoms of hypocalcemia
Some people with hypocalcemia don't have symptoms. Others may experience the following symptoms:
Mood changes: A lack of calcium can alter your mood. You may notice quick changes in your mood and not know what they're happening.
Muscle stiffness or twitches: Muscles may feel tight or hard to maneuver. In addition, tremors or twitches of the muscles are common.
Tingling sensations: Hypocalcemia can cause a pins and needles sensation in your hands and feet.
Fatigue: You may feel tired or lethargic. An overall lack of energy may become the norm.
Long-term calcium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms. These include:
Skin and nail problems: Hypocalcemia is linked to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. These can cause itchy, painful skin blisters. You might also have brittle nails that break easy or look dry.
Osteoporosis: Your bones need calcium to stay strong and healthy. Without enough calcium in your body, your bones weaken. This can cause pain and make them more likely to get breaks and fractures.
Diagnosis of hypocalcemia
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms above. It's important to make an appointment with your doctor. To diagnose hypocalcemia, your doctor may run a few tests. These include:
Blood test: Your doctor will take a sample of your blood to determine calcium levels.
Medical history: Your doctor will review your medical history and discuss your family's medical history.
Mental exam: Stress and anxiety can cause this condition. Your doctor will likely do a mental test. The test can evaluate your lifestyle, work and habits to identify potential causes.
Twitch test: Your doctor could conduct two tests that look for muscle twitches. This can rule out hypocalcemia. The Chvostek test looks for a muscle response when the doctor taps on a facial nerve. The Trousseau test looks for twitches in muscles when your blood supply is restricted to certain areas of your body.
Treatment for hypocalcemia
Treatments for hypocalcemia depend on how severe the calcium deficiency. Your treatments can also vary depending on the damage this condition has caused. Common treatments include:
Medications: Doctors may suggest a calcium supplement. You can usually take this at home. In more extreme cases, the doctor can give you a shot with calcium in it.
Dietary changes: Calcium occurs naturally in many foods. Your doctor may suggest eating a calcium-rich diet. Foods like dairy products, beans, figs, broccoli, spinach, fortified cereals and nuts are all good sources of calcium.
Recovery from hypocalcemia
Most people with hypocalcemia benefit from treatment. You might notice improvement within a few weeks. The condition is rarely life-threatening. If hypocalcemia has caused more serious damage like kidney problems, you might need more treatment. Your doctor might also want to monitor you more to check on your health. If you're having any of the symptoms from the list above, talk with your doctor immediately. Early treatment of hypocalcemia provides the best outcome.