Parathyroid Gland Disorders – Conditions & Symptoms
The parathyroid glands, part of the endocrine system, are a group of 4 glands located behind the thyroid which regulate the amount of calcium in the bones and blood, an element essential to proper muscle, nerve, and bone function.
Since calcium is important to nearly every process in the body, the parathyroid glands provide a means of regulation to ensure that each system has the calcium it needs. The parathyroid does this through producing parathyroid hormone, or PTH, which draws calcium from storage in the bones and back into the bloodstream when it detects blood calcium levels dropping too low.
When the parathyroid malfunctions, many serious disorders can occur, whether from an excess or shortage of calcium distribution, or from tumors developing into cancer.
Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands call for the release of too much calcium into the bloodstream. This is usually because one or more of the glands have enlarged into a tumor which has lost its ability to regulate its production of PTH. The enlarged parathyroid gland is known as an adenoma. This is one of the most common parathyroid gland disorders; many people have adenomas without knowing it for long periods of time because they symptoms are so mild.
Hyperparathyroidism results in the loss of calcium from the bones, causing symptoms of aching, and can lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis in severe cases. The excess calcium in the blood stream (hypercalcemia) can be either minimal with few symptoms, or result in major problems, including cataracts in the eyes, ulcers in the stomach and intestines, kidney stones, and kidney failure.
The usual solution to an enlarged parathyroid gland is removal through surgery, which results in immediate relief of hypercalcemia symptoms. However, there may still be lasting effects from the damage that has already been done.
The opposite of hyperparathyroidism is hypoparathyroidism, or the underproduction of PTH by the parathyroid glands. This condition is rarer than hyperparathyroidism, and is usually caused when enlarged parathyroid glands are removed to cure hypercalcemia. It also occurs from congenital birth defects, autoimmune problems, and related mineral deficiencies, such as hypomagnesemia, a deficiency of magnesium that affects calcium levels in the body.
Hypoparathyroidism results in a condition known as hypocalcemia, or too little calcium in the blood, as well as an increase in phosphorus levels, known as hyperphosphatemia. Since calcium is necessary to carry out nerve and muscle function, hypocalcemia symptoms include muscle tingling and cramps, but can be as severe as full-body muscle cramping, known as tetany.
Hypoparathyroidism is treated with calcium and Vitamin D supplements, in most cases.
In very rare cases, tumors that develop in the parathyroid glands are caused from parathyroid cancer, which is usually treated with surgical removal.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Parathyroid Gland Disorder
Your parathyroid gland disorder may qualify you for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. The SSA lists parathyroid gland disorders under the Endocrine System in its Listing of Impairments.
Unlike other disorders, endocrine system disorders, including parathyroid gland disorders, are not evaluated under one list of qualifying symptoms and conditions. Since endocrine system disorders affect so many areas of the body based on which hormone is lacking or being overproduced, the SSA requires people suffering from these kinds of disorders to qualify under the particular body system that is affected.
In the case of parathyroid disorders, the most commonly addressed symptoms are bone loss, cataracts, kidney failure, nerve and muscle miss-function.
If you have bone loss due to hyperparathyroidism, your symptoms will be evaluated with the appropriate criteria under Section 1 of the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments, the Musculoskeletal System.
If you have cataracts due to hyperparathyroidism, your eye condition will be evaluated under Section 2 of the Blue Book, Special Senses & Speech.
If you have kidney problems kidney failure, your condition will be compared to the requirements under Section 6, Genitourinary Impairments.
Nerve and muscle function impairments due to hypoparathyroidism will be evaluated under Section 11, Neurological.
As with any disabling condition, the SSA requires that you provide extensive medical documentation of your impairments and prove that you are significantly hindered from carrying out a normal life, including employment. By meeting the criteria listed in the Blue Book, your condition will indicate you qualify for disability benefits.
Your Parathyroid Gland Disorder Disability Case
Receiving a favorable review for disability benefits by the SSA can seem challenging considering the rejection rate for first time applicants. This is no reason not to file or to give up at the first level. Even if your case is initially rejected, you stand a far greater chance of winning at the appeal level, especially if you employ a Social Security Attorney to help ensure you are presenting the best possible case.
To ensure that your case will be accepted, make sure your medical documentation is accurate, non-contradictory, and complete, and follow the guidelines laid out on the SSA’s website and in the Blue Book.