Hypocalcemia refers to low blood calcium levels, and it’s mainly caused by conditions that interfere with the absorption or metabolism of calcium in the body.
You might have hypocalcemia if you suffer from symptoms such as muscle cramps or spasms, anxiety, depression, or tingling sensations in your fingers or toes.
The best way to treat your symptoms of hypocalcemia is to see your doctor, who may prescribe calcium supplements and lifestyle changes to help you manage your condition on a day-to-day basis until you’re feeling better.
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral found in your body, especially in your bones. Your body needs calcium to help you maintain strong teeth and bones. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, you may become sick with conditions such as osteoporosis, kidney stones or rickets.
When used topically, it can also be applied to reduce pain from conditions like shingles.
If you have hypocalcemia (aka hypocalcaemia), however, too much or too little calcium can present a problem for your health – so let’s take a look at what makes up both sides of that equation.
There’s a lot of different kinds of calcium supplements available in today’s market including prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies.
These forms vary widely in bioavailability; meaning, how well they absorb into your body through digestion and absorption processes. There are four main types of calcium supplements: carbonate, citrate, gluconate and phosphate.
These each have their own bioavailability levels; which means some will be better absorbed than others depending on your individual circumstances.
What Causes Hypocalcemia?
There are many underlying causes of hypocalcemia. A number of medications can lead to calcium deficiency, such as diuretics and some antibiotics. Diet also plays a role in causing hypocalcemia.
The condition is common among people who suffer from lactose intolerance because they’re missing out on calcium-rich dairy products.
Additionally, because it’s not well absorbed in those with Celiac disease, those with gluten sensitivity are at risk for low calcium levels in their blood.
Lastly, excess alcohol consumption can lead to hypocalcemia because that vitamin B1 (thiamine) is needed for proper utilization of your body’s stores of calcium.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypocalcemia
Calcium deficiency causes a decrease in blood calcium levels (hypocalcemia). Calcium is necessary for maintaining proper nerve, muscle, and heart function. The signs and symptoms can vary widely.
The severity depends upon how much calcium is being retained by your body. Some people only have mild symptoms, while others develop severe life-threatening complications within days or weeks if untreated.
Some of these signs may include Hypocalcemia Treatment: If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about getting tested for hypocalcemia. Treatment involves taking calcium supplements and monitoring blood calcium levels.
It’s also important to address any underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to low calcium levels.
For example, some medications can cause hypocalcemia as a side effect. Your doctor will work with you to monitor your condition and manage it effectively so that you don’t experience dangerous complications from low blood calcium levels.
When it comes to preventing hypocalcemia, nutrition is key. Calcium is important for a number of bodily functions, so make sure you’re getting enough through your diet (try drinking milk for strong bones).
If you find that you are often suffering from symptoms like muscle weakness or frequent fractures, it may be time to check in with your doctor—you may need more calcium in your diet.
Though calcium is an essential part of a healthy body, too much can be toxic; so make sure that when you supplement your diet with extra calcium sources like supplements or fortified foods, you keep close track of how much you take in at one time.
An excess intake can lead to calcinosis—an accumulation of calcium deposits within tissues.
When To See a Doctor
If you experience any symptoms of hypocalcemia (abnormally low levels of calcium in your blood), consult your doctor. Severe cases may require emergency attention, but even mild cases should be monitored by a health professional.
If you have hypocalcemia, treatments will vary depending on how severe your symptoms are. Your doctor may prescribe medication, dietary changes or even supplements to raise calcium levels in your blood.
For more severe conditions, surgery might be required. It’s important that you get treatment for hypocalcemia as soon as possible; while some people might not experience any symptoms at all (only discover they have a problem after routine checkups), others can face serious complications if left untreated.
How To Manage Existing Conditions
In some cases, you might need a vitamin supplement. However, taking a multivitamin that contains a lot of Vitamin D is no longer recommended. The key is not to find out which vitamins or supplements are best for weight loss — it’s finding out which ones might be harmful if taken in large quantities, says Dr. Ochner.
For example, if you have kidney or liver damage as a result from years of alcohol abuse, certain nutritional supplements could put extra stress on your organs and cause negative side effects like fatigue or an inability to concentrate.
Many of these products are available over-the-counter, but consumers should use caution before self-treating, he says. Start with smaller dosages and only take what is suggested. Plus, eating healthy foods rich in essential nutrients will provide your body with natural energy that can help you feel less tired during workouts (and throughout the day).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all these changes, consider working with a nutritionist on getting your diet back on track.
A qualified nutritionist can help ensure what you eat helps you lose weight safely — while keeping an eye on any other health issues that may come up along the way.
Prognosis for Hypocalcemia
The prognosis for hypocalcemia is generally good. If left untreated, complications can occur that involve other body organs such as your heart, kidneys and central nervous system.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might need to stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for a short time while you’re given intravenous calcium supplements. But if you are otherwise healthy, getting back to normal should be possible within days or weeks.
People with severe hypocalcemia may need long-term medical treatment with calcium pills or a low-salt diet in addition to regular monitoring by their healthcare provider.