Symptoms, causes, and risk factors of hypocalcemia

Calcium is an essential mineral that is used to build strong teeth and bones. Additionally, it is needed for the heart and all the other muscles in the body to function properly. As the body is unable to acquire enough calcium required to function efficiently, the risk of developing disorders like osteopenia, osteoporosis, and hypocalcemia is known as calcium deficiency disease.

Hypocalcemia is a condition where the level of calcium in the plasma of the body is lower than that of an average person. It also results in the low production of calcium or insufficient calcium circulation in the body. In most cases, a deficiency of vitamin D or magnesium is linked to hypocalcemia.

Symptoms of hypocalcemia

Some people simply don’t experience signs and symptoms of hypocalcemia. Especially, in the early stage of the condition. As the condition progresses, symptoms tend to show up. The deficiency of calcium tends to affect all parts of the body, which leads to weak nails, thin skin, slower health growth. Additionally, one’s health becomes fragile.

The signs and symptoms of hypocalcemia are as follows:

  • muscle spasms
  • papilledema, or swelling of the optic disc
  • muscle stiffness
  • changes in mood, like anxiety, depression, or irritability
  • paresthesias, or feelings of pins and needles, in the extremities
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • memory issues
  • fatigue
  • hypotension
  • parkinsonism

The long-term symptoms that one may experience are listed below:

  • brittle nails
  • dry skin
  • dementia
  • kidney stones or other deposits of calcium in the body
  • eczema
  • cataracts

The severe symptoms of hypocalcemia are as follows:

  • arrhythmias
  • seizures
  • congestive heart failure
  • laryngospasms

Causes of hypocalcemia

Hypoparathyroidism is the leading cause of hypocalcemia. Hypoparathyroidism is caused when the body secretes less than the average amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Low PTH levels lead to a lower level of calcium in the body. This condition can be inherited. Furthermore, it can be caused due to cancer of the head or neck, or it can be the result of removing the thyroid gland surgically.

Also, as people age, there is an increased risk of calcium deficiency. Some of the factors that may be the caused due to this deficiency have been listed below:

  • medications that reduce calcium absorption
  • hormonal changes, especially in women
  • poor calcium intake for a prolonged period of time, especially during childhood
  • dietary intolerance to foods that are rich in calcium
  • certain genetic factors

Malabsorption and malnutrition are the other causes of hypocalcemia. Malabsorption is when the body is unable to absorb the minerals and vitamins while malnutrition is when one is not consuming enough of nutrients. Some of the additional causes of hypocalcemia are as follows:

  • medications and drugs that elevate calcium levels
  • hypermagnesemia
  • hyperphosphatemia
  • hypomagnesemia
  • massive blood transfusions
  • septic shock
  • renal failure
  • hungry bone syndrome, which mainly occurs after surgery for hyperparathyroidism
  • certain chemotherapy drugs
  • insufficient vitamin D and calcium in one’s diet
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • intense exercise
  • diabetes
  • irregular levels of phosphate and magnesium

Risk factors of hypocalcemia

People who have magnesium or vitamin D deficiency face risk of hypocalcemia. Some of the other risk factors of hypocalcemia are mentioned below:

  • anxiety disorders
  • liver failure
  • kidney disease
  • a history of gastrointestinal disorders
  • pancreatitis
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