You've probably heard that it is important to keep your calcium levels in check. This is because calcium is highly important for your endocrine system and for regulating blood pressure and promoting bone health. Hypocalcemia is a condition in which there are low calcium levels in the blood, which can lead to muscle cramps, muscle spasms, and other negative side effects.
The levels of calcium in your blood are known as serum calcium, and the normal range according to the NIH is between 8-10 mg/dL.
In pediatrics, it is relatively common for babies to suffer from low calcium levels. This is usually not serious and will go away on its own.
Causes of Hypocalcemia
Levels of calcium may be low due to a lack of vitamin d, meaning that it may be beneficial to take calcium supplements or vitamin d supplements to help bring your blood calcium levels back to normal. A calcium deficiency can also be caused by low magnesium levels, or may manifest as a result of hypoparathyroidism. Endocrinology tells us that this is a condition that affects your parathyroid glands, causing them not to secrete enough parathyroid hormone (pth) which regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your blood.
Hypomagnesemia, or magnesium deficiency, can also be a common cause of low level of calcium.
Symptoms of Hypocalcemia
In addition to muscle cramps and spasms, known as tetany, and brittle nails, not getting enough calcium can lead to more serious complications such as osteoporosis or constipation. Low blood calcium can also cause heart palpitations due to a lack of electrolytes. This can also lead to hyperphosphatemia, or elevated blood phosphates.
In these cases, it is important to see a healthcare professional for medical advice and to check your total calcium level. A blood test will help determine phosphate level as well as albumin level, hormone levels, and vitamin d levels. This will help to determine if you are having problems with your absorption of calcium or if you simply aren't eating enough calcium-rich foods.
Doctors may also check for vitamin d deficiency or low potassium, as vitamin d can play a part in calcium absorption, and low potassium can mimic low calcium symptoms.. In addition, they might check the level of ionized calcium in your blood to make sure that the balance between free and bound calcium is normal.
Those who have hypocalcemia and contract COVID-19 are especially at risk for hospitalization due to depleted immune response.
Treatment for Hypocalcemia
In many cases, treatment consists only of dietary changes to ensure patients are eating foods with high calcium levels. This can include dairy products, fish, beans, and nuts.
Too Much Calcium
Some people have high calcium levels, known as hypercalcemia, which come with a different set of side effects and complications. Usually, your thyroid gland will release calcitonin to reduce calcium levels, but hyperparathyroidism may prevent this from happening. In rare cases, it can even lead to pancreatitis.
More commonly, excess calcium leads to kidney stones, and you may be prescribed diuretics or magnesium citrate to help with those.
Hypercalcemia is much more common than hypermagnesemia, which is excessive magnesium in your blood.