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What are parathyroid glands?

The parathyroid glands are two pairs of small, oval-shaped glands located next to the two thyroid gland lobes in the neck. Each gland is usually about the size of a pea.


What is the function of the parathyroid glands?

Parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormones which play a key role in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood. Precise calcium levels are important in the human body since small changes can cause muscle and nerve problems.

The parathyroid hormone stimulates the following functions:

  • Release of calcium by bones into the bloodstream
  • Absorption of calcium from food by the intestines
  • Conservation of calcium by the kidneys
  • Stimulates cells in the kidneys to transform weaker forms of vitamin D into the form that is strongest at absorbing calcium from the intestines.


Diagnosing a parathyroid problem

If your physician thinks you may have a parathyroid problem, he or she will ask you about your medical history and give you a physical exam; you may need to have blood tests as well. You may also need to have other tests, such as an imaging scan. Based on the results, your physician will work with you on a treatment plan.