Symptoms of Hypocalcemia That You Should Not Ignore

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Milk. The only drink that can single-handedly sustain a baby for six months. The only drink which provides us with over nine essential nutrients, including calcium.

Although everyone knows and accepts the above facts, many of us don’t consume enough milk and dairy products which may lead to low levels of calcium in our blood, also termed hypocalcemia.

Symptoms of Hypocalcemia That You Should Not Ignore
Image source: drrobertmelillo.com

Medical factors causing fluctuating levels of blood calcium are complicated due to the influence of various hormones working on the organs. As calcium plays a central role in muscle contraction, low calcium levels mainly affect neuromuscular activity which may cause prolonged contractions or generalized numbness in one or many parts of the body.

So what happens when we the calcium starts depleting from our blood?

In most cases, calcium levels decline gradually developing vague symptoms, which often go unnoticed or are brushed off as fatigue and general weakness. This happens even though major organs have started getting affected.

Neurological Symptoms

How many of us have felt a slight tingling or numbness in our legs, which we self-diagnose as postural issues? These pins and needles sensations are clinically called paresthesia and if not controlled may result in chronic pain.

In some cases, the first sign of hypocalcemia is peri-oral paresthesia, which is a weird tingling sensation around the mouth.

Muscular Symptoms

All of us have experienced muscle spasms, at some time or the other. But how many of us attribute it to hypocalcemia?

Muscle spasms are commonly home treated with painkillers, but the underlying cause is not diagnosed.

These spasms have the potential of becoming so severe that laryngeal muscles get involved leading to tetany which may prove to be fatal.

Cardiac Symptoms

The muscular issues above may involve cardiac muscles which cause chest pain.

The situation gets worse when ECG changes seen in hypocalcemia look a lot like those seen in a heart attack.

Clinicians get so busy performing cardiac tests, to rule out coronary artery disease, that they overlook a simple blood test for calcium levels.

Behavioral Symptoms

Hypocalcemia affects the mind as well as the body.

Low blood calcium can be behind common symptoms, such as forgetfulness and mood disturbances, and in some cases, personality changes have also been attributed to hypocalcemia.

What is most concerning is that many of us may be suffering from hypocalcemia without even knowing it. Mild symptoms go undetected and diagnostic tests are often delayed. Instead of complex neurophysiological or cardiopulmonary tests are given priority.

Another matter of concern is that many laboratories are providing incorrect results of calcium. As calcium is bound to protein, the amount of protein in the body affects the amount of calcium that can be detected. Therefore, it is essential that the calcium reading is corrected for albumin (protein) to get accurate results.

Diagnosis of hypocalcemia is just the first step. Finding the cause of the hypocalcemia is another challenge. Causes of hypocalcemia range from specific conditions like hypoparathyroidism to non-specific conditions like critical illnesses.

Whatever the cause, treatment is relatively straightforward with calcium being given orally and intravenously, if needed.

The bottom line is that we can avoid all these complex problems by just consuming an adequate amount of calcium through milk and dairy products.

Cappuccinos, milkshakes or just simple milk and cookies…..make sure you have enough milk in any form so that you can stock up on calcium and preserve it for the future.

Read in Urdu

References:

Fong J, Khan A. Hypocalcemia: Updates in diagnosis and management for primary care. Canadian Family Physician. 2012;58(2):158-162.

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