What is low blood calcium?

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Hypocalcemia: Overview

Hypocalcemia means that the level of calcium in your blood is lower than it should be.

Your doctor may have done tests to check your calcium levels because you had certain symptoms. These include tingling or twitching of your muscles. Your doctor may do more tests to find out why your calcium is low and to see how well your kidneys and other organs are working. Your doctor will also want to see how well your parathyroid gland is working. This gland controls calcium levels in your blood.

You may have this problem because you have kidney disease. Or your body may not be absorbing the calcium as it should.

You may be able to get your calcium up to a safe level by taking supplements. If your levels are very low, your doctor may give you a calcium shot, possibly along with magnesium. You will probably also be given vitamin D, because you need it to absorb calcium.

After your doctor has your calcium levels up, be sure to get plenty of calcium in your diet. If you have a kidney or parathyroid problem, you may need to keep taking extra calcium.

Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia is an abnormally low level of calcium in the blood. It may be caused by vitamin D deficiency, kidney failure, acute pancreatitis, or insufficient magnesium and protein in the blood.

Other causes of hypocalcemia include low levels of parathyroid hormone (hypoparathyroidism), malnutrition, and parathyroid surgery.

Symptoms often do not occur with mild hypocalcemia. As hypocalcemia becomes more severe, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Muscle cramps, muscle twitching, or seizures
  • Inability to detect touch accompanied by burning, pricking, tickling, or tingling sensation (paresthesia) of the hands, feet, lips, and tongue

Hypocalcemia is treated by determining and treating the cause of the low blood calcium. Oral or intravenous calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D are given to restore the blood level to normal.

How can you care for hypocalcemia?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium. These include yogurt, cheese, milk, and dark green vegetables. This is the best way to get the calcium you need. You can get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish, cereal, and milk.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking a calcium plus vitamin D supplement.
  • Stay active. Regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, can help keep your bones strong. It can also improve your overall health.
  • Spend a small amount of time outside in the sun without sunscreen. The sun helps your body make vitamin D. Talk to your doctor first if you have had skin cancer or you are at high risk for skin cancer.

Hypocalcemia: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You feel numb or have tingling in your fingers and hands or toes and feet.
  • You are confused or are having trouble remembering things.
  • You have muscle spasms or cramps.
  • Your heart seems to be speeding up and then slowing down or skipping beats.
  • You are feeling down or blue, or you are not enjoying things like you once did. You may be depressed, which is common in people with hypocalcemia. Depression can be treated.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.