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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 377-379

Unmasking of primary hyperparathyroidism by Vitamin D therapy

1 Department of Nephrology, Global Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Surgery, Global Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication28-Oct-2015

Correspondence Address:
B Shah
Institute of Renal Sciences, Global Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-4065.157427

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A 38-year-old female on Vitamin D therapy presented with hypercalcemia induced acute kidney injury. Evaluation revealed primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and iatrogenic hypervitaminosis D. After medical stabilization, she underwent surgical removal of the parathyroid adenoma, and made a full recovery. This case highlights unmasking of subclinical hyperparathyroidism by vitamin D therapy leading to severe hypercalcemia.

Keywords: Hypercalcemia, hypervitaminosis D, parathyroid adenoma, primary hyperparathyroidism

How to cite this article:
Bala S, Shah B, Rajput P, Rao P. Unmasking of primary hyperparathyroidism by Vitamin D therapy. Indian J Nephrol 2015;25:377-9

How to cite this URL:
Bala S, Shah B, Rajput P, Rao P. Unmasking of primary hyperparathyroidism by Vitamin D therapy. Indian J Nephrol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Dec 3];25:377-9. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Hypercalcemia is a common and overlooked biochemical abnormality, with an annual incidence of 0.1–0.2%. The prevalence is 1.07–3.9% in the general population, and 0.17–2.92% in hospitalized patients.[1],[2]

Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) occurs as a result of increased and uncontrolled secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) because of hyperfunction of one or more parathyroid glands. The cause of hyperfunction of parathyroid glands is, in the majority of cases, adenoma, followed by hyperplasia, and carcinoma. The main manifestations are hypercalcemia, calciuria with an increased tendency to urolithiasis and polyuria that leads to dehydration and loss of weight. Reabsorption of phosphate in the kidneys is decreased and that leads to hypophosphatemia.[3]

For many people, the word "vitamin" expresses a beneficial and essential component for healthy life and some like to take supplements including Vitamin D without a physician order. While Vitamin D toxicity is rare, most of the reported cases are due to over supplementation.[4]

  Case Report Top

A 38-year-old female presented for evaluation of raised creatinine (1.5 mg/dl). Patient complained of 10 kg weight loss in 2 months and constipation. She had been on Vitamin D 60,000 IU weekly for 2 months presumably for low Vitamin D level.

On enquiry, there was no history of fever, anorexia, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. History pertaining to other systems was unremarkable. Initial investigations showed normal urinalysis; hemoglobin 10 g/dl, total lymphocyte count 8800/mm 3, platelet 280,000/mm 3, serum bilirubin 0.8 mg/dl, aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase 23/13 U/L, total protein 6.8 g/dl, serum albumin 3.2 g/dl, serum creatinine 1.5 mg/dl, serum Na + 137 mmol/l, serum K + 3.4 mmol/l, serum calcium 15.9 mg/dl, serum phosphorous 2.2 mg/dl. In view of severe hypercalcemia, the patient was admitted.

Physical examination was unremarkable. Investigations showed high 25(OH) Vitamin D (25(OH) D) at 100 ng/ml and elevated iPTH at 1464.90 pg/ml. Serum protein electrophoresis was normal. Electrocardiography showed short QT interval of 260 ms. USG kidneys showed normal sized kidneys. Computed tomography of the neck showed parathyroid adenoma of the left lower pole [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. Sestamibi scan confirmed the parathyroid adenoma [Figure 3].
Figure 1: Computed tomography neck (cross-section) showing the left parathyroid adenoma

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Figure 2: Computed tomography neck (left lateral view) showing the left parathyroid adenoma

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Figure 3: Sestamibi scan showing left parathyroid adenoma

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She was treated with intravenous (IV) saline, furosemide, calcitonin, steroids, and zolendronate. After stabilization, excision of the parathyroid adenoma was done. The adenoma was 2 cm × 1.5 cm, and it weighed 0.9 g. Serum calcium progressively improved over the next few days. The PTH level dropped to 516 pg/ml the day after surgery.

When seen in the outpatient clinic after 1-week, serum calcium was 8.6 mg/dl, and serum creatinine was 0.8 mg/dl.

  Discussion Top

Vitamin D is an important pro-hormone that plays an important role in calcium homeostasis and bone mineral metabolism. The adult recommended daily allowance is 15 mcg (600 IU).[5] Excess of Vitamin D or its metabolites can cause hypercalcemia and hypercalciuria. The mechanism of hypercalcemia is a combination of increased intestinal calcium absorption and bone resorption induced by Vitamin D and decreased renal clearance resulting from dehydration. Toxic effects occur when 25(OH) D is in excess of 80 ng/ml.

Hyperparathyroidism is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in the general population. A single enlarged parathyroid gland (adenoma) is the cause of PHPT in 80–85% of cases. These adenomas are benign, clonal neoplasms of parathyroid chief cells that lose their normal sensitivity to calcium. PHPT presents in one of the three ways in 60–80% asymptomatic with mild hypercalcemia and discovered during routine laboratory testing. Other 20–25% of patients have a chronic course manifested by mild or intermittent hypercalcemia, recurrent renal stones and complications of nephrolithiasis; in these patients the parathyroid tumor is small (<1 g). 5–10% have severe and symptomatic hypercalcemia and overt osteitis fibrosa cystica; in these patients the parathyroid tumor is usually large (>5.0 g). Patients with parathyroid carcinoma typically have severe hypercalcemia with "classical" renal and bone involvement. Our patient probably had asymptomatic mild hypercalcemia as is seen in 60–80% of cases with primary hyperparathyroidism. Vitamin D therapy and hypervitaminosis D unmasked this hyperparathyroidism by causing severe hypercalcemia.

The diagnosis of PHPT is established by laboratory testing showing hypercalcemia with inappropriately normal or elevated blood levels of PTH as was seen in our patient. Hypercalciuria, hypophosphatemia, phosphaturia are other laboratory findings. Hyperchloremic acidosis may be present, and the ratio of serum chloride to serum phosphorus is elevated. All of these were seen in our patient.

Nonspecific treatment of hypercalcemia includes IV normal saline and furosemide to increase urinary calcium excretion,[6],[7] calcitonin which increases renal calcium excretion and decreases bone resorption by interfering with osteoclast maturation,[8],[9],[10] bisphosphonate, which binds to bone hydroxyapatite and inhibits calcium release by interfering with osteoclast-mediated bone resorption [11],[12] and steroids, which increase the metabolism of the Vitamin D and decrease the absorption of the calcium in the gut.

Our patient was treated with nonspecific measures until the diagnosis of HPT was made. Thereafter surgical excision of parathyroid adenoma was done, and patient made a complete recovery.

  Conclusion Top

Hypercalcemia is common but often overlooked. In majority of the cases, it is due to PHPT with mildly elevated calcium and often asymptomatic. Iatrogenic hypervitaminosis D in this case unmasked PHPT. With surgical removal of parathyroid adenoma, there was complete recovery.

  References Top

Fraser WD. Hyperparathyroidism. Lancet 2009;374:145-58.  Back to cited text no. 1
Wermers RA, Khosla S, Atkinson EJ, Hodgson SF, O'Fallon WM, Melton LJ 3rd. The rise and fall of primary hyperparathyroidism: A population-based study in Rochester, Minnesota, 1965-1992. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:433-40.  Back to cited text no. 2
Cormier C, Souberbielle JC, Kahan A. Primary hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis in 2004. Joint Bone Spine 2004;71:183-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
Oghazian MB, Ataei S, Radfar M. Vitamin D Intoxication with hypercalcemia due to overuse of supplement. J Pharm Care 2013;1:114-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Institute of Medicine. Report at a Glance, Report Brief: Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D, Released 30 November, 2010. Available from: [Last accessed on 2010 Dec 01].  Back to cited text no. 5
Hosking DJ, Cowley A, Bucknall CA. Rehydration in the treatment of severe hypercalcaemia. Q J Med 1981;50:473-81.  Back to cited text no. 6
Suki WN, Yium JJ, Von Minden M, Saller-Hebert C, Eknoyan G, Martinez-Maldonado M. Acute treatment of hypercalcemia with furosemide. N Engl J Med 1970;283:836-40.  Back to cited text no. 7
Wisneski LA. Salmon calcitonin in the acute management of hypercalcemia. Calcif Tissue Int 1990;46 Suppl: S26-30.  Back to cited text no. 8
Austin LA, Heath H 3rd. Calcitonin: Physiology and pathophysiology. N Engl J Med 1981;304:269-78.  Back to cited text no. 9
Deftos LJ, First BP. Calcitonin as a drug. Ann Intern Med 1981;95:192-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
McIntyre HD, Cameron DP, Urquhart SM, Davies WE. Immobilization hypercalcaemia responding to intravenous pamidronate sodium therapy. Postgrad Med J 1989;65:244-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
Carano A, Teitelbaum SL, Konsek JD, Schlesinger PH, Blair HC. Bisphosphonates directly inhibit the bone resorption activity of isolated avian osteoclasts in vitro. J Clin Invest 1990;85:456-61.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

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