Letters To The Editor

In reply: Postsurgical hypoparathyroidism is not primary hypoparathyroidism

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In Reply: We thank Dr. Parmar and appreciate his important comments.

Regarding the difference between primary and secondary hypoparathyroidism, the definition varies among investigators. Some define primary hypoparathyroidism as a condition characterized by primary absence or deficiency of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which results in hypocalcemia and which can be congenital or acquired, including postsurgical hypoparathyroidism.1–4 In principle, this is similar to the classification of disorders affecting other endocrine glands as primary and secondary. For example, primary hypothyroidism refers to a state of low thyroid hormones resulting from impairment or loss of function of the thyroid gland itself, such as in Hashimoto thyroiditis, radioactive iodine therapy, or thyroidectomy, among others.5 We adopted this definition in our article. In contrast, secondary hypoparathyroidism is characterized by low PTH secretion in response to certain conditions that cause hypercalcemia. Non-PTH-mediated hypercalcemia is a more common term used to describe this state of secondary hypoparathyroidism.

Other investigators restrict the term “primary hypoparathyroidism” to nonacquired (congenital or hereditary) etiologies, while applying the term “secondary hypoparathyroidism” to acquired etiologies.6

Concerning the association between diabetes mellitus and hypomagnesemia, we agree that diabetes does not need to be uncontrolled to cause hypomagnesemia. However, the patient described in our article presented with severe hypomagnesemia (serum level 0.6 mg/dL), which is not commonly associated with diabetes. Most cases of hypomagnesemia in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are mild and asymptomatic, whereas severe manifestations including seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, and acute tetany are rarely encountered in clinical practice.7 Furthermore, numerous studies have shown a negative correlation between serum magnesium level and glycemic control.7–11 A recent study reported that plasma triglyceride and glucose levels are the main determinants of the plasma magnesium concentration in patients with type 2 diabetes.12

Our patient’s diabetes was uncontrolled, as evidenced by her hemoglobin A1c level of 9.7% and her random serum glucose level of 224 mg/dL. Therefore, it is more likely that “uncontrolled diabetes mellitus” (in addition to diuretic use) was the cause of her symptomatic severe hypomagnesemia rather than controlled diabetes mellitus.

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