Hypercalcemia (Elevated Calcium Levels)

  • Medical Author:
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Take the Blood Disorders Quiz
Not all calcium supplements are the same, and taking too many calcium supplements can lead to hypercalcemia.

Calcium Supplements: Not All Are Equal

Author: Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Viewer Question: I've heard that not all calcium supplements are the same. Which over-the-counter vitamins or minerals help build bones? Which brands or types are better than others?

Dietician's Response: You heard right, not all calcium supplementsare the same. The supplements will differ by the kinds of calcium that they contain, the amount that they contain, and any thing else that is added to them (other minerals or vitamins). Along with that, there are other factors that will affect how much of the calcium you will actually absorb, including medications that you are taking, your age, your vitamin D levels, the amount of calcium that you are taking and if you are pregnant. If you have any concerns over any of these, it would be best to speak with your physician before taking anything.

The most common forms of calcium in supplements are calcium carbonateand calcium citrate. The differences between the two are...

Hypercalcemia facts

  • Calcium is important for bone strength, as well as muscle and nerve function
  • Calcium levels in the bloodstream are regulated by PTH, vitamin D, and calcitonin
  • Hypercalcemia can vary in severity and in chronicity
  • The main cause of hypercalcemia is hyperparathyroidism
  • Malignancies may be associated with hypercalcemia, and the presence of hypercalcemia usually heralds a worse prognosis
  • The signs and symptoms of hypercalcemia can be remembered by the phrase "moans, stones, groans, and bones."
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause of hypercalcemia as well as the degree of severity
  • Both surgical and medical treatments are available as treatment options
  • Prognosis depends on the underlying cause of hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia Introduction

Calcium is a mineral that is important in the regulation and processes of many body functions including bone formation, hormone release, muscle contraction, and nerve and brain function. Hypercalcemia is the term that refers to elevated levels of calcium in the bloodstream.

Regulation of Calcium

Calcium levels are tightly regulated in the body. Calcium regulation is primarily controlled by parathyroid hormone (PTH), vitamin D, and calcitonin.

  • Parathyroid hormone is a hormone produced by the parathyroid glands, which are four small glands that surround the thyroid and are found in the anterior part of the lower neck.
  • Vitamin D is obtained through a process that begins with sun exposure to the skin, the process then continues in the liver and kidneys. Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as eggs and dairy products.
  • Calcitonin is produced in specialized cells in the thyroid gland.

Together, these three hormones act on the bones, the kidneys, and the GI tract to regulate calcium levels in the bloodstream.

Picture of the Parathyroid Glands
Picture of the Parathyroid Glands
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015

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