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The parathyroid glands are small endocrine glands in the neck, usually located within the thyroid gland, which produce parathyroid hormone. Most often there are four parathyroid glands but have been known to number six or eight.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands located on the posterior (closer to the back) surface of the thyroid gland. They distinguish themselves from the thyroid gland histologically as they contain two types of cells- parathyroid chief cells and oxyphil cells. Quite easily recognizable from the thyroid as it is has densly packed cell as contrasted by the follicle structure of the thyroid.
Parathyroid hormone is a small protein that takes part in the control of calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, as well as bone physiology. When blood calcium levels drop below a certain point, calcium-sensing receptors in the parathyroid gland are activated to release hormone into the blood. It then stimulates osteoclasts to break down bone and release calcium into the blood. The sole purpose of the parathyroid glands is to regulate the calcium level in our bodies within a very narrow range so that the nervous and muscular systems can function properly.
Role in disease
The single major disease of parathyroid glands is overactivity of one or more of the parathyroid lobes which make too much parathyroid hormone causing a potentially serious calcium imbalance. This is called hyperparathyroidism; it leads to hypercalcemia and osteitis fibrosa cystica. Since hyperparathyroidism was first described in 1925, the symptoms have become known as "moans, groans, stones, and bones." The primary treatment for this disease is the surgical removal of the faulty gland.
A Sestamibi scan is often used to determine which parathyroid gland(s) are responsible for overproduction of parathyroid hormone.
Human anatomy, endocrine system: endocrine glands
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