What is Hypocalcemia?
Hypocalcemia is a condition in which there is too little calcium in the blood. Normal calcium levels are essential for teh heart and muscles to work properly as well as to ensure bone development. In a baby, some common causes of hypocalcemia are premature birth, infections, maternal diabetes and some medications. Hypocalcemia can be caused by vitamin D deficiency, which can occur in breast-fed babies who are not given vitamin D supplements. Rare causes of hypocalcemia include hyperparathyroidism (a disorder of the pituitary gland) and pseudohypoparathyroidism, a genetic disorder that mimics hypoparathyroidism.
There are frequently no symptoms of hypocalcemia. When present, symptoms include:
- Short stature
- Dry skin
- Dry hair
- Brittle nails
- Muscle cramps
- Tingling in the fingers, toes
- Weakened tooth enamel
Diagnosis can be made with a blood test to check calcium levels. Measuring blood levels of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D can help determine the cause of the hypocalcemia.
Restoring normal calcium levels with calcium supplements is important because long-term hypocalcemia can cause poor bone formation and brittle bones that are prone to fractures. Vitamin D supplements may be given.
When to Call for Help
If any of the above signs develop, talk to your pediatrician.
At Hopkins Children’s, hypocalcemia is treated by the division of Endocrinology.