Typically there are four kidney bean shaped parathyroid glands – two located on each side of the neck, just next to the thyroid gland. See below.

The parathyroid glands are responsible for maintaining your blood calcium levels within a strict range. They produce parathyroid hormone, which acts to raise your blood calcium levels by both absorbing more calcium from your kidneys and gut, and by causing your bones to break down and release some of their calcium stores. See below.

Occasionally one, two, or all of the parathyroid glands will become hyperfunctional and produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). This can lead to an abnormal state called primary hyperparathyroidism and can cause problems with early osteoporosis and lead to weakened bones, or cause kidney stones. Most people however are asymptomatic and the condition is just detected on a routine lab test.

Parathyroidectomy refers to the surgical removal of one, two or almost all of the parathyroid glands to bring the parathyroid hormone level and calcium level back down to normal levels.