Hypocalcemia (Low Calcium)

What is hypocalcemia?

Hypocalcemia means that the amount of calcium in your blood is lower than normal. Calcium is a mineral that is very important for:

  • Bone health
  • Teeth
  • Nerves
  • Muscles
  • Blood clotting

Severe hypocalcemia can be life threatening.

What is the cause?

Possible causes of hypocalcemia include:

  • You are not getting enough calcium or vitamin D from your diet. Vitamin D helps your body take calcium from the food you eat and use it to build bone.
  • Your intestines are not absorbing calcium.
  • You have an imbalance of minerals or a low albumin (protein) in your blood. Some of the conditions that cause an imbalance of minerals include:
    • Kidney disease. Your kidneys are located on each side of your spine above your waist. They make urine by filtering and removing waste products and water from your blood
    • An inflamed pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in your upper belly behind your stomach that controls insulin levels
    • Parathyroid gland problems. The parathyroid glands are in your neck and they control the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
  • You are taking a medicine that affects the level of calcium in your blood.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Numbness or tingling around your mouth or in your feet and hands
  • Muscle spasms in your face, feet, and hands
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there)

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of organs inside your belly

You may have tests or scans to check for other possible causes of your symptoms, such as: scans of your parathyroid gland or blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working.

How is it treated?

Your treatment will depend on the cause. If you are not getting enough calcium or vitamin D from your diet, eating foods rich in calcium or taking a vitamin D supplement may be all you need to do.

If you take medicine that makes you lose calcium, your provider may prescribe a different kind of medicine. Your provider may suggest that you eat more foods rich in calcium or take a calcium supplement.

If your hypocalcemia is severe, you will probably stay in the hospital and be given calcium by IV.

If low calcium is caused by a medical problem, treating the medical problem may improve your calcium level.

You may have blood tests on a regular basis to check your calcium level.

How can I take care of myself?

Many fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products, are good sources of calcium. Some examples of foods rich in calcium are:

  • Yogurt, 2% milk, low-fat cheese, soy milk, and rice milk
  • Beans and lentils
  • Almonds
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice or cereal
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and turnip greens
  • Salmon

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent hypocalcemia?

Make sure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D each day, either in foods or as supplements.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-30
Last reviewed: 2014-09-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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