Calcium is one of the body’s electrolytes, which is a mineral that carries electricity when dissolved in body fluids such as blood (but most of the body’s calcium is not charged). Although much of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones, some circulate in the blood.
About 40% of the calcium in the blood is attached (bound) to proteins in the blood, especially albumin. Protein-binding calcium acts as the last source of calcium for cells but has no active function in the body. Only unbounded calcium affects body functions.
Therefore, hypocalcemia causes complications only when the level of unrestricted calcium is low. Non-binding calcium has an ionic charge, so it is also called ionized calcium.
Hypocalcemia (low calcium) usually occurs when too much calcium is lost in the urine or when too little calcium is removed from the bones into the bloodstream.
Causes of hypocalcemia include the following:
- Low levels of parathyroid hormone (hypoparathyroidism), as may be the case when parathyroid glands are damaged during thyroid surgery
- Non-response to normal levels of parathyroid hormone
- No parathyroid glands at birth
- Low levels of magnesium (hypomagnesemia), which lowers the activity of the parathyroid hormone
- Vitamin D deficiency (due to insufficient eating or not getting enough sunlight)
- Kidney dysfunction, which leads to the build-up of calcium in the urine and impairs kidney function
- Insufficient use of calcium
- The disruption that reduces calcium absorption
- Certain drugs, including rifampin (antibiotic), antiretroviral drugs (such as phenytoin and phenobarbital), bisphosphonates (such as alendronate, ibandronate, risedronate, and zoledronic acid), calcitonin, chloroquine, corticosteroids, and plicamycin
Low calcium side effects
- If levels of calcium are low for long periods, people may develop dry scaly skin, brittle nails, and coarse hair
- Muscle cramps involving the back and legs are common. Over time, hypocalcemia can affect the brain and cause neurologic or psychological
- Memory loss
- An extremely low calcium level may cause tingling (often in the lips, tongue, fingers, and feet), muscle aches, spasms of the muscles in the throat (leading to difficulty breathing), stiffening, and spasms of muscles (tetany), seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms
- Calcium supplement
- Sometimes vitamin D
Calcium supplements, given orally, are often necessary to treat hypocrisy. If a cause is identified, treatment of hypocalcemia or a drug-altering disorder can restore calcium levels.
Calcium is usually given intravenously as soon as symptoms appear. Taking vitamin D supplements helps increase the absorption of calcium from the digestive system. Sometimes people with hyperthyroidism are given a synthetic form of parathyroid hormone.
What can happen if your calcium level is too low?
An extremely low calcium level may cause tingling (often in the lips, tongue, fingers, and feet), muscle aches, spasms of the muscles in the throat (leading to difficulty breathing), stiffening, and spasms of muscles (tetany), seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Can low calcium cause anxiety?
Low calcium causes anxiety – it's not you – BUT anxiety and over-breathing can make calcium drop too so try to keep as calm as you can and not get into this loop. Distract yourself as best you can and breathe slowly. When your endocrinologist is adjusting your dose make sure changes are very small and made gradually.
What is a critical low calcium level?
They can order tests and check the levels of calcium in the blood. Doctors define hypocalcemia, or a calcium deficiency, as blood calcium concentrations of below 8.8 milligrams per deciliter. The recommended dietary allowance of calcium for adults aged 19–50 is 1,000 mg.
Can low calcium cause weight gain?
Data suggest that a diet deficient in calcium is associated with higher body weight and that augmenting calcium intake may reduce weight and fat gain or enhance loss.
Does low calcium affect your teeth?
If a lack of calcium is observed, your body will start to take calcium from your bones and teeth instead. This will weaken your bones and teeth, placing you at an elevated risk for damage, tooth decay, and osteoporosis. Dental Concerns – weak roots, brittle teeth, tooth decay, and irritated gums.
Can low calcium cause back pain?
Without enough calcium, your bones can weaken, potentially leading to bone and joint pain, or musculoskeletal pain. (Lack of calcium and vitamin D can also lead to osteoporosis, as explained in Causes of Osteoporosis.)