Hypocalcemia refers to the lack of calcium in the blood. Because calcium is important for a variety of bodily functions, a deficiency can lead to bone, muscle, and nerve damage.
What is hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia manifests itself through deficiency symptoms such as tiredness and limited physical and mental performance. In the heart area, cardiac arrhythmia and chest pain can occur.
Calcium is essential for the health and vitality of the body. It plays an important role in bone growth, nerve and brain function, cell growth, and muscle contraction. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hypocalcemia.
When the level of calcium in the blood falls below a critical level, it is called hypocalcemia. People with hypocalcemia may not notice any symptoms, especially early in the disease. But the burden increases as the disease becomes more serious. Symptoms can include muscle twitching, nervous reflexes, tingling in the hands and feet, or an irregular heartbeat.
Hypocalcemia in newborns is particularly critical. The deficiency can negatively affect the growth and healthy development of the child. If the newborn shows signs of muscle or nerve twitching, tremors, or is difficult to feed, a doctor should be consulted to diagnose possible hypocalcemia and initiate treatment.
The reasons for low calcium levels are suspected to be an underactive adrenal gland. This regulates the calcium content in the entire body. Aside from that, too much phosphorus can be a cause of hypocalcemia as it causes calcium levels to drop.
Low levels of the protein albumin, produced in the liver, can also depress calcium levels. Calcium intake from food, in addition to vitamin D and magnesium, is also important for the body’s calcium balance. Foods high in calcium include dairy products, spinach, broccoli, or oranges.
The most common causes of hypocalcemia are other medical conditions. Hypocalcemia occurs here as a serious side effect. These include: alcoholism, kidney or liver disease, malnutrition, malnutrition (lack of calcium in food).
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Hypocalcemia manifests itself through deficiency symptoms such as tiredness and limited physical and mental performance. In the heart area, cardiac arrhythmia and chest pain can occur. In some patients, the cardiac pump function decreases, which can develop into cardiac insufficiency. Furthermore, hypocalcemia can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Typical are diarrhea and constipation, but also nausea and vomiting. In isolated cases, heartburn and inflammation of the throat occur. The symptoms usually appear insidiously and remain until the electrolyte imbalance has been corrected. The symptoms then slowly subside, although long-term consequences can also remain, depending on the severity of the individual symptoms.
For example, chronic cardiac insufficiency can set in or there can be permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract. If left untreated, hypocalcemia can develop into a chronic condition. Chronic hypocalcemia can lead to hair and nail growth disorders.
Sometimes tartar, tooth decay or another dental disease develops. This is accompanied by psychological changes, such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the chronic form can lead to a persistent feeling of illness. Those affected often feel tired and exhausted or are listless.
Diagnosis & History
Diagnosis of hypocalcemia is by a blood test. In most cases, the doctor recognizes the deficiency symptoms before the patient discovers the symptoms themselves.
Once hypocalcaemia is diagnosed, other blood tests will usually follow to check the quality of kidney function and to check the levels of magnesium, adrenal hormones, magnesium and phosphorus in the blood.
Additional testing is considered if the cause of the hypocalcemia is unclear. Aside from blood serum checks, hypocalcemia can also be detected by increased levels of phosphorus in the urine.
Hypocalcemia causes various symptoms. As a rule, the extent of the symptoms depends heavily on the severity of the calcium deficiency, which is why no general prediction is possible. The affected person usually suffers from muscle wasting and can no longer easily carry out physical activities or sporting activities.
If the calcium deficiency persists for a long period of time, nerve damage can occur, resulting in paralysis or sensory disturbances in the patient. These can make everyday life considerably more difficult. The function of the brain is also restricted by the hypocalcemia and it can lead to concentration problems or thinking disorders.
The patient often feels sick and weak and suffers from a decreased pulse. Kidney problems can also occur, and in the worst case the patient is dependent on dialysis. In most cases, treatment of hypocalcemia leads to no complications.
It can be done acutely with infusions or with the help of a healthy and balanced diet. It may also be necessary to treat the underlying disease responsible for the hypocalcemia. Life expectancy is reduced if no treatment takes place.
When should you go to the doctor?
If symptoms such as muscle wasting and an increased feeling of illness are noticed, hypocalcemia may be the cause. A visit to the family doctor is necessary if the symptoms mentioned do not go away on their own within a few days. If other symptoms such as paralysis or sensory disturbances occur, a doctor must be consulted promptly. In the event of a strong feeling of illness, possibly associated with kidney problems, the emergency services should be alerted. It is possible that damage to the internal organs has already occurred, which can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
In principle, untreated hypocalcemia severely limits life expectancy, which is why the disease must always be investigated and treated. Individuals diagnosed with adrenal hypofunction are particularly prone to developing hypocalcemia. Malnutrition, alcoholism or kidney or liver disease are also possible triggers. Anyone who belongs to this risk group should consult a doctor with the symptoms mentioned. In addition to the general practitioner, a specialist in internal medicine is the right contact person.
Treatment & Therapy
Hypocalcemia is treated with IV fluids to ensure healthy calcium levels in the body. These infusions are optionally combined with supplements that are taken orally.
If the hypocalcemia is caused by an underlying disease, that cause is treated as well. In some cases, hypocalcemia resolves on its own. This is all the more likely if there are no noticeable symptoms. The doctor treating you must decide which type of treatment is right for you. In newborns, treatment usually focuses on close monitoring of health and body weight, tolerance to food, drugs, and therapies; and a parental preference for a particular treatment.
If left untreated, hypocalcemia can seriously endanger a newborn’s health. But the effects on an adult should not be underestimated either. In order to avoid further dangers, the doctor’s instructions should be followed meticulously. Consequential damage can be: damage to nerve and brain function; Osteomalacia : soft and weak bones due to a lack of vitamin D during growth; Osteoporosis : thinning and weakening of bones; deteriorated growth; Convulsive disease: hyperactivity of the nerves that causes severe pain.
A healthy lifestyle should be maintained to prevent hypocalcaemia . Above all, this includes a balanced, healthy diet. Regular consumption of foods high in vitamin D promotes the absorption and processing of calcium in the body. These include tofu, milk, almonds, oats and cabbage.
In addition, alcohol should be avoided as it depletes magnesium reserves and consequently leads to hypocalcemia. The additional intake of calcium tablets can also regulate the supply.
There is no special follow-up care for those affected in the case of hypocalcemia. The exact type of therapy and the subsequent measures depend on the individual clinical picture and the cause. In any case, patients should pay attention to possible complications in order to avoid worsening of the state of health. The medical instructions for reducing the calcium intake through food must be observed.
In this context, food control is a relevant factor. A corresponding change in diet thus becomes the focus of aftercare. In addition, patients should drink enough liquid to avoid excess calcium or to accelerate excretion. After the actual treatment, it is important for those affected to ensure that the disease does not occur again.
That is why the doctors also deal with an exact cause research. If the trigger is known, it is easier to prevent the disease from coming back. Depending on the severity of the poisoning, the doctor treating you may also recommend medication. Patients should take these as directed during the follow-up period. Good health awareness helps to successfully combat the complications and prevent a relapse.
You can do that yourself
In some cases, hypocalcemia resolves on its own. However, if the calcium deficiency persists, symptoms arise that require treatment. The affected person should definitely consult a doctor and have the deficiency symptoms clarified. In addition to medical treatment, some self-help measures can be taken to alleviate the symptoms.
The first thing you should do is change your diet. A diet high in sesame, emmental, almonds, kale, and spinach provides the body with adequate calcium. In addition, a lot of liquid should be drunk to stimulate the metabolism and thus promote the supply of calcium. It is best to keep a food diary to accompany this, because this is the only way to determine the causes of hypocalcemia in the long term and then gradually eliminate them.
Bed rest and rest are recommended for the first few days after a medical infusion. The person concerned should also refrain from sports. If the symptoms have not subsided after a few days or weeks, the doctor must be informed. A repeat infusion may be needed, or the hypocalcemia may be due to a serious medical condition that needs to be identified and treated.