The human body needs phosphorus for several functions including building and repairing of teeth and bones, muscle contraction, and nerve function. Most of the phosphorus in our body is found in the bones, while the rest is stored in tissues throughout our body. Kidneys play a vital role in controlling the amount of phosphate in the bloodstream. When the levels of phosphate in the blood drop, it leads to a condition known as hypophosphatemia.
Symptoms of hypophosphatemia
It is essential to learn about the early signs and symptoms of hypophosphatemia as it is easy to miss them due to their non-specific nature. Some common symptoms of hypophosphatemia are as follows:
- Muscle weakness that causes mild fatigue or overall weakness
- Bone pain
- Loss of appetite
Causes of hypophosphatemia
Two primary factors lead to hypophosphatemia. The first factor is when the amount of phosphate absorbed into the bloodstream is inadequate and the second one is when the body eliminates excessive quantities of phosphate through the urine, leading to low phosphate levels in the blood.
Several underlying health conditions can lead to hypophosphatemia. Knowing about these conditions may help in identifying the risk factors of hypophosphatemia.
- Primary hyperparathyroidism: This condition occurs when the body produces parathyroid hormone due to the growth in the size of one or more parathyroid glands. This hormone is responsible for removing phosphate from the kidneys. So, when an excess amount of parathyroid hormone is secreted, it can result in low levels of phosphate.
- Secondary hyperparathyroidism: Low levels of calcium in the blood can lead to the body secreting excess parathyroid hormone, which prompts the body to eliminate more phosphate.
- Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D helps the small intestine and kidneys reabsorb phosphate into the bloodstream. Therefore, a lack of vitamin D leads to less phosphate in the blood. Additionally, this lack of phosphate due to low levels of vitamin D can also cause secondary hyperparathyroidism.
- Hypophosphatemic rickets: It is a rare inherited condition that leads to a disorder of bone mineralization due to the kidneys’ treatment of phosphorus.
- Kidney transplant: A kidney transplant can lead to mild hypophosphatemia.
- Kidney problems: Conditions like myeloma, Wilson’s disease, or systemic lupus erythematosus can cause kidney damage, which can lead to a loss of phosphate from the bloodstream.
Other causes of hypophosphatemia
Not consuming enough phosphate through diet: Although phosphate is present in nearly all foods, some people can still face a deficiency as their body cannot absorb phosphate from their food.
Alcoholism: Drinking alcohol too often can also lead to hypophosphatemia.
Diagnosing and treating hypophosphatemia
Doctors use a simple blood test to measure the levels of phosphate. Along with that, they might also check levels of vitamin D and parathyroid hormone for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for hypophosphatemia aims to treat the underlying condition. Doctors provide vitamin D supplements to the patient through an injection or provide calcium supplements as per the patient’s condition. Additionally, if required, doctors give phosphate supplements either in the form of a tablet or through a drip.