Hypocalcaemia – What it is and how to recognize it
The simplest definition of hypocalcaemia refers to an abnormal decrease in blood calcium. It is extremely important to understand why this drop occurs, what the causes of hypocalcaemia are and how we recognize it.
Calcium is a vital mineral for proper functioning of the body.
Our body uses it to build strong bones and healthy teeth. Calcium is also needed for the heart and muscles to function properly. When there is insufficient calcium in the body, there is a risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, osteopenia and calcium deficiency (hypocalcaemia). Children who do not have sufficient calcium in the body cannot develop properly and may not reach the appropriate height in adulthood.
What are the causes of hypocalcaemia?
As they age, many people are at increased risk of suffering from calcium deficiency. This deficiency can be influenced by a wide range of factors such as: a low calcium intake over a long period of time, especially in infancy; medicines that can reduce calcium absorption; intolerance to certain foods rich in calcium; hormonal changes, especially for women; certain genetic factors.
The importance of calcium for women
Specialists emphasize that women should increase their calcium intake earlier than men, starting with age two. Respecting the daily calcium requirement is particularly important as a woman approaches menopause.
In addition, menopausal women should increase their calcium intake to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the risk of hypocalcaemia,
especially as there are factors such as the decline in oestrogen, which during menopause makes women’s bones thinner a lot quickly. In other words, bone density is affected by menopause.
Another cause of calcium deficiency is hypoparathyroidism. People who suffer from this condition do not produce enough of a hormone (called parathyroid hormone), which controls the level of calcium in the blood.
Other causes of hypocalcaemia include malnutrition and malabsorption.
For example, malnutrition occurs when the body cannot absorb the vitamins and minerals it needs from the foods a person eats.
Other causes of hypocalcaemia: low levels of vitamin D, which makes it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium from other sources; medicines such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, corticosteroids, and medicines used to treat high levels of calcium; pancreatitis; hypomagnesaemia and hypomagnesaemia; hypophosphatemia; septic shock; massive blood transfusions; kidney failure; certain drugs in chemotherapy.
What are the symptoms of hypocalcaemia?
Calcium deficiency, in its incipient stages, may not give any symptom. However, symptoms may occur as the illness progresses.
Severe symptoms of hypocalcaemia include: confusion or loss of memory; muscle spasms; numbness and tingling in the hands, feet and face; depression; hallucinations; muscular cramps; fragile and soft nails; bones fracture easily.
Calcium deficiency or hypocalcaemia can affect many parts of the body, and signs can be seen: soft and brittle nails, hair grows extremely slowly, and the skin is thin and fragile. Let’s not forget that this mineral – calcium – plays an important role both in the contraction of muscles and in the release of neurotransmitters, so hypocalcaemia can cause seizures even in healthy people.
If you start to notice that you have neurological symptoms such as memory loss, numbness and tingling, hallucinations or seizures, it is important to go to your doctor as soon as possible for a specialist consultation.