Hyperparathyroidism (HPT) is a condition caused by the overactivity of the parathyroid glands, the four small glands that surround the thyroid. Located in the neck, the parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone, or PTH, a hormone responsible for balancing the calcium and phosphorous in the body. When the body’s blood calcium levels fall, the parathyroid glands release PTH to help restore the depleted levels. Patients with hyperparathyroidism have exceedingly high levels of blood calcium, which can often cause problems like kidney stones, benign tumors known as adenoma, and even osteoporosis.
Until recently, little was known about the connection between hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis. But now, a new study by researchers at the New York University School of Dentistry may have some answers.
“HPT isn’t that common of a condition – it affects only about 1,000 cases each year – but with osteoporosis being so prevalent in the United States and with the connection between HPT and osteoporosis being so strong, it’s a connection that certainly warranted a closer look,” says Dr. Alexandra George, a dentist based in Wexford, Pennsylvania.
According to George, HPT can wreak havoc on your mouth, too.
“When most people think of osteoporosis, they think of brittle bones and hip fractures,” says George. “But while those are the most common side effects, what most people don’t realize is that osteoporosis can affect your jaw and teeth, too.”
That means you can break your jaw as easily as your hip, and lose your teeth, even if you brush and floss regularly.
“Unfortunately, osteoporosis doesn’t care if you brush well,” says George.
So, what does the HPT and osteoporosis link mean, exactly? Researchers believe that high levels of the PTH hormone correlate to accelerated bone loss, thanks to a chemokine called MCP-1, or monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. The researchers believe that MCP-1 could better explain how PTH works in people with hyperparathyroidism.
“It looks like MCP-1 is an important piece of the HPT puzzle,” says George. “Studies have even shown that immediately following the surgical procedure to remove adenoma tumors, patients’ MCP-1 levels plummet. So taking a closer look at MCP-1 could yield a lot of answers.”