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Hypercalcemia (Elevated Calcium Levels) (cont.)

Hypercalcemia Causes

The most common cause of high calcium levels (hypercalcemia) is an overproduction of parathyroid hormone, or hyperparathyroidism. Hyperparathyroidism tends to be more common in women. Hyperparathyroidism can be the result of all four parathyroid glands producing an excessive amount of parathyroid hyperplasia (PTH), or the result of just one gland specifically producing an excessive amount of PTH (usually the result of a parathyroid adenoma or benign tumor).

Other medical conditions can be associated with high calcium levels (non-parathyroid hypercalcemia). Some of these conditions are not serious; however, they may vary in severity and chronicity. For example, hypocalciuric hypercalcemia is an inherited condition in which individuals do not excrete normal amounts of calcium, thus calcium levels are usually slightly elevated. Patients with hypocalciuric hypercalcemia have little or no symptoms so it is generally discovered incidentally through routine blood tests. Other causes of hypercalcemia can be life-threatening. Cancers are commonly associated with elevated calcium levels and are referred to as "hypercalcemia of malignancy." Twenty to forty percent of patients with cancer will develop hypercalcemia at some point in their disease.

Other conditions associated with hypercalcemia include:

  • cancers, particularly multiple myeloma, breast cancer and lung cancer;
  • excessive levels of vitamin D from vitamins, excessive dietary calcium, or from diseases that may result in excess vitamin D production;
  • immobilization over a long period of time;
  • inherited metabolic or kidney conditions;
  • kidney failure;
  • overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or excessive thyroid hormone intake; and
  • use of certain medications such as thiazide diuretics.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2014
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