Published online Sep 28, 2011. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v17.i36.4063
Revised: March 25, 2011
Accepted: April 2, 2011
Published online: September 28, 2011
The parathyroid glands are the main regulator of plasma calcium and have a direct influence on the digestive tract. Parathyroid disturbances often result in unknown long-standing symptoms. The main manifestation of hypoparathyroidism is steatorrhea due to a deficit in exocrine pancreas secretion. The association with celiac sprue may contribute to malabsorption. Hyperparathyroidism causes smooth-muscle atony, with upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, heartburn and constipation. Hyperparathyroidism and peptic ulcer were strongly linked before the advent of proton pump inhibitors. Nowadays, this association remains likely only in the particular context of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1/Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. In contrast to chronic pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis due to primary hyperparathyroidism is one of the most studied topics. The causative effect of high calcium level is confirmed and the distinction from secondary hyperparathyroidism is mandatory. The digestive manifestations of parathyroid malfunction are often overlooked and serum calcium level must be included in the routine workup for abdominal symptoms.