Most people associate abnormal calcium levels with bone problems such as osteoporosis, but in fact, calcium functions in a wide variety of very important capacities within the human body. It causes muscles to function when stimulated by nerves, is necessary for blood coagulation, and even plays a large role in maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Due to its importance, your body attempts to keep calcium levels within a narrow range by excreting calcium from the kidneys, absorbing it in the intestines, and either sequestering it in or releasing it from bones as needed. If any one of these processes malfunctions, or if the hormonal signaling driving them breaks down, you may end up with too much calcium in your blood, a condition known as hypercalcemia.
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Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the severity of your hypercalcemia (some symptoms listed under "Tips" below) and whether medication or even hospitalization is necessary. Furthermore, an underlying cause for the hypercalcemia should be sought. Patients with mild hypercalcemia can often treat themselves at home.
Drink plenty of fluids. The average adult loses about 2.5 liters of water every day through urine, sweat, breathing and bowel movements. You may have noticed that you have been urinating more than usual. The body's primary method of ridding itself of excess calcium is excretion in the urine. For this reason, drinking 2.5 liters of fluid each day may not be enough to compensate for your increased water loss. You should focus on drinking enough fluids so that you never feel thirsty, and perhaps more importantly, to ensure that you are producing plenty of colorless or slightly yellow urine each day. In general, the darker your urine, the more dehydrated you are.
Eat a normal amount of calcium. This may seem paradoxical, but a diet low in calcium often contributes to an INCREASED level of calcium in the blood. Your body may increase the breakdown of bone in order to make up for a perceived lack of calcium in your diet, which could in turn lead to kidney stones and bone problems. Many dairy foods are high in calcium. Non-dairy options include spinach, broccoli, peas, salmon, almonds, or calcium-fortified products from the grocery store.
Consider medication if increased fluid intake and a diet with moderate amounts of calcium fail to bring your hypercalcemia under control. Loop diuretics such as furosemide increase the excretion of both sodium and calcium in your urine, but as they also increase the amount of urine produced you must be especially careful to drink adequate amounts of fluid. Bisphosphonates decrease the resorption of calcium from bone and can help in certain cases. Discuss these medications with your physician.
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- "Greenspan's Basic and Clinical Endocrinology"; David G. Gardner and Dolores Shoback; 2007
- "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2010"; Stephen J. McPhee, Maxine A. Papadakis, Eds.; 2010