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Home > Services > Kidney Care > Kidney Conditions > Hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia

Calcium is a mineral needed for bone health, muscle movement and nerve function. Hypercalcemia is higher than normal levels of calcium in your blood, which can lead to kidney stones if not treated.

Hypercalcemia may occur if an illness or medication interferes with your body's calcium intake process or destroys bone and other tissue releasing extra calcium into the blood. The most common causes of hypercalcemia are cancer or an overactive parathyroid gland.

Dehydration can also cause a temporary hypercalcemia. Decreased fluid in the blood causes an increase in concentration, but not amount of calcium.

Risk Factors 

Factors that may interfere with hormones and lead to hypercalcemia include:

  • Certain types of brain cancer
  • Parathyroid problems
  • Certain disorders such as adrenal insufficiency and acromegaly
  • Certain medications such as lithium

Factors that may increase the amount of calcium in the body or blood include:

  • Excess vitamin D and/or vitamin A supplements
  • Certain medications, including diuretics that reduce the amount of calcium eliminated and calcium-containing antacids
  • Certain diseases associated with inflammation, such as sarcoidosis, berylliosis or tuberculosis
  • Hodgkin lymphoma

Other factors that may increase your risk of hypercalcemia include:

  • Cancer or treatment for cancer
  • Genetic disorders
  • Phosphate deficiency in newborns
  • Kidney disease or failure

Symptoms 

Symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss and weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
  • Itching

Diagnosis 

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may order a blood and/or urine test.

If hypercalcemia is associated with a parathyroid problem or cancer your doctor may need images, including:

  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Other tests may be done to look for any effects of hypercalcemia such as:

  • An ECG to check electrical activity of your heart
  • A bone mineral density test to measure the amount of calcium in an area of your bone

Treatment   

Treatment depends on the cause of hypercalcemia. 

Rehydration and Medications

You may be given IV fluids to help flush out the excess calcium. You may also need medication to control the condition causing the problem or to encourage removal of calcium from the blood. 

Other Supportive Steps

Other treatments depend on the cause of your hypercalcemia but may include:

  • Limiting your intake of calcium and vitamin D
  • Parathyroid surgery to treat hypercalcemia in patients with hyperparathyroidism
  • Dialysis for severe cases of hypercalcemia due to kidney failure

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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