Understanding Hyperphosphatemia: Causes and Symptoms

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HyperphosphatemiaYour body is a mysterious and complex thing. The number of physical processes that go into something as simple lifting a cup to your mouth is actually pretty amazing.

That being said, with so many parts working together, sometimes things go wrong. And sometimes, something that you have never even heard of before is to blame. Take hyperphosphatemia, for example. What is hyperphosphatemia? Well, it can occur when you have elevated phosphate levels in your blood.

It sounds pretty severe, doesn’t it? What does it actually mean for your health? We will examine the signs and symptoms of hyperphosphatemia, as well as identify the common hyperphosphatemia causes and how it affects phosphate homeostasis in your body.

The Role of Phosphates in Human Body

Hyperphosphatemia results from abnormally high levels of phosphates in your body. So what’s the big deal? What’s the function of phosphates in the body? The role of phosphates in the human body is probably a little larger than most people realize.

Phosphates are electrolytes that are essential to the formation and strengthening of teeth and bone. About 85% of the phosphates in our body are found in our bones. The other 15% is found in various cells and blood. The number of phosphates found in the bloodstream is limited, but it is also the blood that helps transfer phosphates in and out of the bones.

It’s a delicate balance, and if it is thrown off, excessive phosphates can cause issues within the body—or at the very least, they are a warning sign that something is wrong.

The effects of this imbalance are not exactly pleasant. Over the short term, it can cause things like subcutaneous tissues, the deposition of calcium and phosphate in bone joints, and chronic kidney disease. Long-term effects can include renal failure; bone, skin and heart complications; organ damage, and damage to the vascular system. As you can see, the consequences of hyperphosphatemia can be pretty devastating if left unchecked.

Symptoms of Hyperphosphatemia

Hyperphosphatemia could be a bad thing to happen to you. Understood. What are the symptoms we can use to recognize it? Well, here is the part that gets tricky. For the most part, hyperphosphatemia symptoms aren’t there. Your eyes don’t bulge, and you don’t get a rash.

The symptoms that you may exhibit are really those of the underlying cause of the hyperphosphatemia, not of the condition itself. Most of the illnesses that cause hyperphosphatemia come with symptoms such as:

In the case of acute hyperphosphatemia, it may lead to hypotension (low blood pressure) or trigger signs of hypocalcemia, which could produce symptoms like:

  • Hyperreflexia (a condition that causes the muscles to overreact during a reflex movement)
  • Positive Trousseau or Chvostek sign (the hands cramp into an almost bird-head shape or your face muscles twitch)
  • Seizure
  • Carpopedal spasm

If hyperphosphatemia does not have any direct symptoms, how do you catch it? Hyperphosphatemia is usually found through blood work and tests. However, these are typically performed after the cause behind the rise in phosphate levels is discovered.

Hyperphosphatemia Causes

What causes hyperphosphatemia? We’ve looked at how to define hyperphosphatemia and what symptoms, or lack thereof, it has. So, why does it develop in the first place? There are various things that can set it off. If it doesn’t look like there is an underlying cause, hyperphosphatemia may be initiated by:

  • Excessive intake of phosphate through food or drink
  • Decreased excretion of phosphate from the blood and body
  • Movement of phosphate (increased movement of phosphates inside cells to the blood and tissue fluids)

In terms of the basic causes, there is also basic treatment. If your intake of phosphates through food and drink is too large, you can change your diet to decrease the phosphates in it. To increase the excretion of phosphate in the body’s system, a forced saline diuresis may be used at a doctor’s discretion.

Exercise can also help prevent phosphate buildup, as well as help you rid your body of the excess. Even a light walk once a day can help you feel better. There are also a few medications that may be prescribed, like aluminum hydroxide or calcium carbonate tablets. Aluminum hydroxide is used sparingly due to fears of poisoning.

Now, if these basic reasons are not the cause of your hyperphosphatemia, there is probably an underlying cause that is more on the severe side. Those causes could be the following:

  • Injury and trauma
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Kidney diseases
  • Medical treatments like hemodialysis and chemotherapy
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Endocrinological disorders like pseudo hypoparathyroidism and hypoparathyroidism
  • Hematological disorders
  • Ischemic bowel disease
  • Immobilization (Note: this is usually in the case of long-term immobilization.)
  • Genetic inheritance

The most common of these issues tends to be kidney disease as your kidneys are involved in your body’s processing and removal of excess phosphates. Unfortunately, hyperphosphatemia is one of the leading contributors to death in patients with a history of kidney issues, failure or transplants.

Hyperphosphatemia Can Be Treated!

There’s a chance that you may be a little worried about hyperphosphatemia. It often doesn’t have symptoms, and left untreated, it can cause a fair amount of damage, maybe even death. But that doesn’t have to be the case. If it is discovered on its own, there are a number of treatment options. If it is found while treating another medical issue, the doctors can help you find a way to treat the conditions concurrently. It’s important to remember not to give up and to listen to your doctor’s advice, especially if you have a history of kidney issues.

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