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Hypercalcemia (High Calcium)

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KEY POINTS

  • Hypercalcemia is high levels of calcium in the blood. Too much calcium can be life-threatening.
  • Your child may have too much calcium because of a medical problem, certain medicines, or too much calcium in your diet.
  • Treatment may include medicines or other treatments to lower the amount of calcium in your child’s blood.

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What is hypercalcemia?

Hypercalcemia means that the amount of calcium in the blood is higher than normal. Calcium is a mineral that your child gets from food. Your child needs calcium for strong bones and teeth, but too much calcium in the blood can be life threatening. It can can weaken the bones, create kidney stones, and cause problems with the way your child’s heart and brain work.

What is the cause?

Possible causes of too much calcium include:

  • Parathyroid gland problems. The parathyroid glands are in the neck and help control the levels of calcium and phosphorus in your child’s blood.
  • A tumor that increases calcium levels in the blood
  • Vitamin D levels that are too high. Vitamin D helps the body take calcium from the food your child eats and use it to build bone.
  • Too much calcium in your child’s diet, or in supplements that your child takes
  • Taking medicine that raises calcium levels in your child’s blood
  • Being bedridden after surgery or because of a serious illness, because when bones don’t bear weight for a long time, they release calcium into the blood
  • Thyroid gland problems. The thyroid gland is in the lower front of your child’s neck and controls energy, temperature, heart rate, and appetite.
  • An inherited problem, which means that it is passed from parents to children through their genes. Genes are inside each cell of the body. Certain genes affect the way your child’s body uses calcium.
  • Being dehydrated, which can cause your child’s body to not have enough fluid to balance the minerals in the blood

What are the symptoms?

Your child may not have symptoms until calcium levels get very high. Severe symptoms may include:

  • Weakness or feeling tired
  • Muscle twitching
  • Feeling thirsty or urinating a lot
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Belly pain
  • Constipation
  • Sudden changes in mood, thinking, or behavior
  • Bone pain

How is it diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child will have blood tests, and may also have tests or scans to check for possible causes of symptoms.

How is it treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause and how high your child’s calcium levels are.

  • If high calcium is caused by a medical problem, treating the medical problem may improve your child’s calcium level.
  • If your child is getting too much calcium or vitamin D from supplements, your healthcare provider may decrease the amount or have your child stop taking them.
  • If your child takes medicine that increases calcium, your provider may prescribe a different kind of medicine.
  • If hypercalcemia is severe, your child will probably stay in the hospital. He may need IV fluids, medicine, or dialysis to decrease his calcium levels.

Your child will need regular blood tests to check his calcium level.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Do not give your child calcium or vitamin D supplements unless your provider tells you to do so.
  • Make sure that your child exercises regularly. If your child is bedridden for several days or longer, ask your provider if there are exercises that you can help your child do.
  • Make sure that your child drinks enough liquid to keep his urine light yellow in color. Ask your provider how much fluid your child should drink each day.
  • Ask your child’s provider:
    • How and when you will get your child’s test results
    • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
    • How to take care of your child at home
    • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-03-23
Last reviewed: 2015-03-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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