Hypercalcemia: what are the risks of a calcium deficit in the blood?

What is hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia is characterized by an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood (greater than 2.60 mmol of calcium per liter of blood for adults, 105 mg / l in children and adolescents), when it is normally distributed from predominantly at the bone level. It can be the consequence of kidney damage, a malignant tumor, the taking of certain drugs (containing vitamin D in particular), be a sign of organ failure or be the consequence of other pathologies. underlying. More rarely, hypercalcemia can be linked to poor food hygiene.

Hypercalcemia can have acute or sometimes serious chronic consequences, which is why it is necessary to diagnose it as quickly as possible. The main risks of hypercalcemia are cardiac: when the calcium level is particularly high, the heart can no longer contract satisfactorily to ensure the circulation of blood throughout the body. The most serious forms can leave irreversible lesions, cause a coma, or even lead to the death of the person concerned.

What are the symptoms of hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia is often asymptomatic at first and its first symptoms are not significant, making it difficult to detect. Usually it will be constipation, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and loss of appetite. Increased thirst and muscle weakness may also indicate hypercalcemia.

In its most severe forms, hypercalcemia can cause confusion, drowsiness, hallucinations, emotional disturbances, heart rhythm disturbances, and even a coma. If it is not identified and treated, its lesions can be irreversible and even fatal.

What are the causes of hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia can be the result of kidney damage, too much calcium intake, certain medications (especially containing vitamin D), be a sign of organ failure or be the consequence of other underlying pathologies.

Hypercalcemia can also be the result of kidney, lung or ovarian cancer. “Cancer cells can secrete a large amount of a protein which, like parathyroid hormone, increases calcium levels in the blood. These effects, called humoral cancer hypercalcemia, are considered paraneoplastic syndrome. Calcium can also be released into the blood when cancer spreads (metastasizes) to the bones and destroys bone cells ”, describes the MSD Manual. Breast cancer, lymphoma or leukemia can also cause it.

Hypercalcemia can also be the result of bone disorders (when bone is broken down or destroyed, calcium is released into the blood).

Last but not least, more rarely, hypercalcemia can be linked to poor food hygiene.

Hypercalcemia: how to diagnose it?

To confirm or deny the diagnosis and after evaluation of the symptoms, the attending physician will check the proper functioning of your muscles, your brain (coordination, absence of confusion, senses and reflexes, etc.) then will prescribe blood, urine and blood tests. will test your kidneys.

What treatments for hypercalcemia?

To treat hypercalcemia, the goal will be to lower serum calcium. In the event of mild hypercalcemia or conditions inducing hypercalcemia, and when renal function is normal, it is generally recommended to increase the intake of fluids. Fluids help the kidneys to break down calcium and help prevent dehydration. Among the medical recommendations, stopping calcium, vitamin D, and diuretics may be prescribed.

Then, the treatment of the cause will be imperative if there is one. This includes treating the cancer or the underlying infection to lower calcium levels in the blood.

Many drug treatments exist in the management of hypercalcemia and have been proven.

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