What is hypocalcemia?

Calcium brings important benefits to your health and vitality. Not only is it essential for bone growth and health, but it also plays a role in nerve signal conduction to the brain, cell function, and muscle contraction. Sometimes calcium levels can become abnormally low. Hypocalcemia (low calcium in the blood) occurs when blood calcium levels in your body become deficient.

There are a number of causes of hypocalcemia, including deficiencies in magnesium, renal failure, pancreatitis, or hypoparathyroidism (low parathyroid levels; the parathyroid controls the amount and density of calcium in your bones). Hypocalcemia can also occur as a result of low levels of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption.

People with hypocalcemia may exhibit no symptoms, especially in the beginning stages, but symptoms emerge as the condition becomes more severe. These symptoms include muscle cramps and twitching, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), overactive reflexes, and burning or tingling sensations in the hands and feet.

Newborns and infants can develop hypocalcemia, and they must be evaluated immediately because this condition could negatively affect their growth and development. Neonatal hypocalcemia includes early and late hypocalcemia. Early hypocalcemia develops in the first few days of life. Late hypocalcemia can be attributed to feeding with formulas that have high levels of phosphate and can deplete calcium levels. This type of hypocalcemia is thought to be caused by excessive phosphate levels or problems with an underactive parathyroid gland.

Any newborn displaying signs of hypocalcemia should be evaluated immediately so that treatment can begin. Seek prompt medical care if your infant is showing symptoms of irritability, tremors, muscle twitches, and difficulty feeding.


What are the symptoms of hypocalcemia?

In adults, symptoms may not appear initially, but can occur as the condition progresses. These symptoms include muscle spasms and twitching, cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), and a pins-and-needles (prickling) sensation in the hands and feet.

Infants with hypocalcemia may seem lethargic, irritable and slow, or they may experience seizures, tremors and twitching. They may ... Read more about hypocalcemiasymptoms


What causes hypocalcemia?

Low calcium levels are thought to be caused by underactivity in the parathyroid gland, which regulates the amount of calcium in your body, or high levels of phosphorous, which can lower calcium levels. Hypocalcemia can also be caused by low levels of the protein albumin, which is manufactured in the liver, and is important in fluid regulation in the cells and tissues in your body. Deficiencies ... Read more about hypocalcemiacauses


How is hypocalcemia treated?

Hypocalcemia is treated with infusions to restore and replenish calcium levels in the body. These infusions may be provided by supplements that can be taken orally or administered intravenously. If the hypocalcemia is due to an underlying medical condition, treatment is also directed at that specific condition.

Hypocalcemia may resolve on its own without treatment; this is more li... Read more about hypocalcemiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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