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The Parathyroid Glands

Anatomy of the parathyroid glands

The parathyroid glands are 4 small, oval-shaped glands. They are located next to the 2 thyroid gland lobes in the neck. Each gland is often about the size of a pea.

Outline of front of neck showing thyroid, parathyroids ghosted in, and surrounding blood vessels and nerves.

Function of the parathyroid glands

Parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone plays a key role in regulating calcium levels in the blood. Precise calcium levels are important because small changes can cause muscle and nerve problems.

PTH stimulates these functions:

  • Release of calcium by bones into the bloodstream, which affects bone density and strength

  • Calcium absorption from food by the intestines

  • Calcium conservation by the kidneys

  • Kidney cell stimulation, which changes the weaker forms of vitamin D into the form that is strongest at absorbing calcium from the intestines

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