Calcium is a vital mineral that helps your body build strong bones and teeth, regulate muscle contractions, transmit nerve impulses, and maintain normal blood clotting. But what happens when you don’t get enough calcium in your diet or from supplements? You may be surprised to learn that a lack of calcium can cause more than just osteoporosis. In this article, we’ll explore the symptoms, causes, and complications of hypocalcemia, a condition that occurs when your blood calcium levels are too low.
What Is Hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia, also known as calcium deficiency disease, is a condition that occurs when your blood calcium levels fall below the normal range of 8.5 to 10.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). According to Healthline, hypocalcemia can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Poor calcium intake over a long period of time, especially in childhood
- Medications that may decrease calcium absorption, such as diuretics, anticonvulsants, or antibiotics
- Dietary intolerance to foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, leafy greens, or nuts
- Hormonal changes, especially in women during menopause or pregnancy
- Certain genetic factors that affect how your body processes calcium
- Kidney failure, which can impair your ability to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels
- Parathyroid gland disorders, which can affect how much calcium your body releases or absorbs
What Are the Symptoms of Hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia can affect many parts of your body, from your muscles to your brain. Some of the common symptoms of hypocalcemia include:
- Muscle aches, cramps, spasms, or twitching
- Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, face, or mouth
- Fatigue, weakness, or drowsiness
- Headaches, confusion, or memory loss
- Depression, anxiety, or mood swings
- Dry skin, brittle nails, or hair loss
- Dental problems, such as tooth decay or gum disease
- Vision problems, such as blurred vision or cataracts
Some of these symptoms may come and go, but they can also become severe and life-threatening if left untreated. For example, hypocalcemia can cause:
- Seizures, which are sudden and uncontrollable electrical disturbances in the brain
- Arrhythmias, which are abnormal heart rhythms that can affect your blood pressure and oxygen supply
- Tetany, which is a condition that causes your muscles to contract involuntarily and painfully
- Laryngeal spasm, which is a condition that causes your throat muscles to tighten and block your airway
How Is Hypocalcemia Diagnosed and Treated?
If you suspect that you have hypocalcemia, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history, medications, and diet. You will also need to have a blood test to measure your calcium levels and other related factors, such as vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and parathyroid hormone.
The treatment for hypocalcemia depends on the cause and severity of your condition. Your doctor may prescribe calcium supplements or injections to raise your blood calcium levels. You may also need to take vitamin D supplements or injections to help your body absorb calcium better. In some cases, you may need to treat the underlying condition that is causing your hypocalcemia, such as kidney failure or parathyroid gland disorder.
In addition to medical treatment, you can also make some lifestyle changes to prevent or manage hypocalcemia. These include:
- Eating a balanced diet that includes foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, sardines, salmon, and fortified cereals
- Getting enough sunlight exposure or taking vitamin D supplements to help your body produce vitamin D
- Avoiding foods and drinks that can interfere with calcium absorption, such as caffeine, alcohol, soda, salt, and processed foods
- Quitting smoking, which can reduce your bone density and increase your risk of osteoporosis
- Exercising regularly, which can strengthen your bones and muscles and improve your blood circulation
- Limiting your intake of phosphorus, which can lower your calcium levels if you have kidney problems or take certain medications
Hypocalcemia is a serious condition that can affect your health and quality of life. If you have any symptoms of hypocalcemia, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. By following your doctor’s advice and making some lifestyle changes, you can prevent or treat hypocalcemia and enjoy a healthy and happy life.