Hypercalcemia is diagnosed by a simple blood test to measure the level of calcium in the blood. This medical problem is often indicative of other diseases, and is defined as an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood. At times lab work may indicate a false high level of calcium in the blood, though usually false positives are relatively rare.
There are a number of potential Hypercalcemia symptoms, some of which are quite minor, others of which can be life threatening. However, it is uncommon for anyone that attends regular physician visits and gets blood work as ordered to have any serious Hypercalcemia symptoms.
At severely high levels of calcium (above 15-16 mg/dL), a medical emergency can result, such as a sudden coma (without any trauma) or even cardiac arrest. Since calcium levels in the blood have a significant effect on the efficiency of muscle function, a number of Hypercalcemia symptoms are related to the heart. Abnormal (irregular) heart rhythms are a common result, causing specific changes to an ECG readout. Extremely high levels of blood calcium can cause ECG findings to appear as an acute myocardial infarction.
Consuming high levels of calcium in the diet most commonly causes kidney stones. There are two different types of kidney stones: calcium stones and uric acid stones. Naturally, calcium stones are caused by calcium build up, and the exact type of kidney stone is discovered by sending a passed kidney stone to a lab for evaluation.
Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is another result of elevated blood calcium. Hypercalcemia symptoms present themselves via pancreatitis most commonly with severe abdominal pain that radiates through the body to the back. Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms of this medical problem, which is sometimes misdiagnosed as kidney stones.
Peptic ulcers can also result from high levels of calcium in the body. Symptoms of this problem include loss of weight, vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, and resulting weight loss. Severe cases of peptic ulcers can cause vomiting of blood as the ulcers bleed.Rarely, these ulcers can perforate the duodenum, resulting in extreme pain and requiring immediate surgery.
Early indications of Hypercalcemia are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and increased, urgent urination. In addition, depression can result as calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body and has an important role in the body’s equilibrium. Individuals may become constipated and have stools that appear different than normal (e.g. tarry and dark).
Some of the more painful Hypercalcemia symptoms is bone pain, which is actually the first symptom reported by most patients diagnosed with Hypercalcemia. Fractures may be more common, and muscle function can be significantly affected. Muscles can suddenly become so weak as to drop a glass or other item, and gout can result as well.
Due to the abdominal pain resulting from the simple act of eating, some patients become anorexic or bulimic, which results in a number of additional medical problems. The good news is that these symptoms can be treated by addressing the underlying issue of Hypercalcemia, allowing life to usually return to normal.