The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, near or attached to the thyroid gland. They produce parathyroid hormone, a chemical in the body that controls the levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the bones and blood. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone, which can cause symptoms such as bone pain or tenderness, fragile bones, depression, forgetfulness, fatigue, frequent or excess urination, and kidney stones. The condition often is diagnosed before symptoms appear, and in most cases it can be treated successfully.

There are two types of hyperparathyroidism: primary and secondary. Primary hyperparathyroidism occurs when one or more of the parathyroid glands grow larger than normal, usually due to unknown causes. Treatments include drinking more fluids, exercise, avoiding diuretics (or “water pills”), and surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid glands. Secondary hyperparathyroidism usually is the result of certain medical conditions that cause low blood calcium levels or increased phosphate levels. These conditions include kidney failure, not enough calcium in the diet, too much calcium being lost in the urine, vitamin D disorders (often due to poor diet or a lack of sunlight), and problems absorbing nutrients from food. Treatments include calcium and vitamin D, medication, dialysis, a kidney transplant, or parathyroid surgery.

The UAB Medicine Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism is consistently ranked among the top programs of its kind in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Its comprehensive care team includes endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists, and other specialists who coordinate their expertise to provide personalized care for both adult and pediatric patients. It works closely with many other UAB Medicine departments and divisions, such as Surgery, Ophthalmology, Radiology, Reproductive Endocrinology, Otolaryngology (ENT), and other key areas. This collaboration helps ensure the most effective care for patients, including outpatient treatments and surgical intervention, when necessary.

UAB surgeons participate in more than 800 endocrine cases each year, and they have the experience and expertise to handle even the most complex cases. Minimally invasive, outpatient surgical treatment procedures are available for many endocrine disorders, allowing for smaller incisions, faster recovery, and less pain in many cases when compared to traditional surgery. Our surgical team has more experience treating hyperparathyroidism using minimally invasive radio-guided parathyroidectomy (MIRP) than most other medical centers in the world.

Patients with diabetes are managed by the UAB Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Diabetes Clinic. It combines the knowledge and compassion of UAB Medicine’s top specialists in a single comprehensive clinic, so patients can see several providers in one day, including an endocrinologist, ophthalmologist, orthopaedic surgeon, nutritionist, social worker, and other experts as needed. The clinic is an arm of the UAB Medicine Comprehensive Diabetes Center, which is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as one of only a handful of diabetes research and training centers in the country.

UAB is a major research center, so faculty are engaged in advanced basic and clinical studies sponsored by organizations such as the NIH, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the American Diabetes Association. Having such an active research program.

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