Calcitonin | Uses, Benefits And Importance

Do you suffer from exhaustion and/or sleeping problems? Perhaps you have had a change in your weight for no clear reason. Are you struggling with mental wellness? Are you experiencing discomfort in your neck area, hoarseness, or do you have a goiter? These are some problems associated with the thyroid and one of its associated hormones, calcitonin. Other thyroid-related issues are changes to hair and skin, bowel problems, menstrual irregularities and/or fertility concerns, musculoskeletal issues, vision changes and eye problems, and having trouble controlling cholesterol levels.

These problems could mean other medical conditions, so getting a complete thyroid evaluation will determine the reasons for these common symptoms. This evaluation involves different types of examinations including blood tests, imaging tests, biopsies, and a clinical evaluation among other tests. There are two types of thyroid problems, Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism.

What is Hypothyroidism?


Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is under-active. It is the most common thyroid disorder and is commonly triggered by genetics, though the risk increases as you age. Women are three times more likely than men to develop it. Hyperthyroidism is just the opposite; the thyroid is over-active producing too much. There are 3 hormones produced by the thyroid: Triiodothyronine (T3), Tetraiodothyronine (T4), and Calcitonin.

Hypothyroidism symptoms develop slowly and can take years for symptoms to show up. This thyroid disorder is a danger to newborns/infants. Mental retardation and stunted growth can develop due to a lack of thyroid hormones at such an early age. Therefore, close monitoring of hormone levels taken soon after birth is recommended. Some symptoms of Hypothyroidism mimic the symptoms of other diseases like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Key symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Brittle fingernails and hair
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Joint pain
  • Elevated cholesterol levels

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is making excessive amounts of hormones that control the metabolism. Your metabolism
converts what you eat/drink into energy. Body temperature, your weight, heart rate, nervous system, breathing, and other bodily functions are all controlled by your metabolism. So when the thyroid makes too much of this hormone, the body’s processes speed up.

You might experience these symptoms:

  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep problems

What is Calcitonin?

chart showing the uses of calcitonin in our body

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Calcitonin is one of three hormones produced by the thyroid gland and is found in fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals. It is a peptide hormone produced from procalcitonin, a larger peptide. The T3 and T4 hormones are made in the follicular epithelial cells, and Calcitonin is made in the parafollicular cells (also known as C-cells). It helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. So, if calcium levels are high, this hormone will reduce them.

Calcitonin helps with bone metabolism and calcium regulation. It slows bone loss and helps to increase bone density in the spine. It might also help to reduce the risk of spine fractures and decrease the pain that results from those fractures. One function of this hormone is reducing osteoclast activity and bone loss. Osteoclasts are bone cells that break down bone tissue. This releases calcium into the bloodstream. By preventing the osteoclast activity, this hormone preserves bone density and decreases the levels of calcium in the blood.

Due to its pain-relieving effects and its ability to reduce fracture risks, it can also be used as a treatment for bone diseases such as Osteoporosis and Paget’s disease of bone. The most common treatment for Osteoporosis is estrogen, but for patients who can’t tolerate the hormone or those that refuse to take it, it is an alternative treatment for Osteoporosis.

This hormone is useful in the early detection of medullary carcinoma of the thyroid. Medullary thyroid cancer produces elevated serum calcitonin levels and a positive prognosis depends on early detection and treatment.  

Why You Need It

why we need calcitonin in the body

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There are a few reasons why you need Calcitonin. One is Paget’s disease of bone, a condition that causes over the top breakdowns and formation of bone tissue. This results in large, deformed, weak bones and pain. It’s common in older people and can affect one or more bones. In this disease, levels of the protein “alkaline phosphataseare” are elevated and indicate the disease’s severity. This hormone reduces the alkaline phosphatase activity, relieves bone pain, and increases bone blood vessels vital for bone formation.

Calcitonin relieves pain. When someone loses a limb, usually after amputation, they often feel pain where the limb used to be. This is called “phantom limb pain”.  In a small clinical trial of just 10 people who experienced phantom limb pain, 9 showed pain relief after taking Calcitonin.   

Calcitonin can treat Hypercalcemia (elevated calcium levels). Too much calcium in your blood weakens bones, creates kidney stones, and interferes with how your heart and brain work. Signs of Hypercalcemia are mild and Calcitonin serves as the first line of treatment.  The more severe cases produce signs/symptoms related to the body part affected by the higher calcium levels.

Examples include:

  • Kidneys (causes excessive thirst and frequent urination)
  • Digestive system (causes stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and constipation)
  • Bones and muscles (causes bone pain and muscle weakness)
  • Brain (causes confusion, lethargy, depression, and fatigue)  List Element
  • Heart (causing palpitations and fainting, indications of cardiac arrhythmia, and other heart problems)

There are two calcitonin peptide drugs approved in the United States. These are human and salmon calcitonin. Salmon is more effective than human and is the only marketed drug. It comes in three forms, tablets, nasal spray and injections and is FDA-approved. The nasal spray, known as Miacalcin indicates use for bone loss in women with Osteoporosis. Used in conjunction with vitamin D and calcium, yields better results.  

5 Uses  

5 uses of calcitonin chart

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Calcitonin is used for several issues including Paget’s disease of bone, jaw tumor, severe Hypercalcemia, identifying nodular thyroid diseases, and pain relief. Let’s take a look at each:

Paget’s Disease of Bone

Calcitonin is used to treat specific bone problems such as Paget’s disease of bone. This disease interferes with the body’s “recycling” process where new bone tissue replaces the old bone tissue. Over time the bones affected become misshapen and fragile. It occurs most commonly in the legs, pelvis, spine, and skull. Most people have no symptoms and when they do occur, the most common complaint was bone pain.

You have an increased risk if others in your family also have/had the disease. Age is also a factor because the older you get, the higher your risk. Complications of Paget’s disease of bone can include broken bones, pinched spinal nerves, and hearing loss. Both the Calcitonin nasal spray and injections reduced alkaline phosphatase levels.

The cause of this disease is unknown. The combination of environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to the disease. There are several genes that appear to be linked in regards to getting the disease. Some believe this disease is a viral infection in the bone cells, but nothing has been proven.  

Giant Cell Granuloma (jaw tumor)

lack of calcitonin results into teeth and problems on the gums

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A beneficial use of this hormone is in the treatment of jaw tumor. Expansion of jaw areas can cause cherubism. Cherubism can be categorized as osteoclast-like giant cells. There have been some indications that Calcitonin might be beneficial for persistent or recurring giant cell granuloma. This condition is most common among women and those aged between 20-40 years. 

Severe Hypercalcemia

part of the thyroid with severe hypercalcemia

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Calcitonin is used to help treat severe Hypercalcemia. It blocks bone resorption and increases urinary calcium excretion by stopping calcium reabsorption by the kidney. It also helps prevent the recurrence of Hypercalcemia.

Identifying Nodular Thyroid Diseases

how a thyroid nodular diseases look like

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This hormone is also used in identifying nodular thyroid diseases. Using routine calcitonin screening for the detection of medullary thyroid cancer which is a neuroendocrine tumor of the thyroid, patients with increases in thyroid nodules stated that this screening could raise odds in detection and might improve outcomes.  

Pain Relief

pain relief poster held by a doctor

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It has been used for relief from pain. It significantly reduced pain and/or improved daily functions as noted during a review of 774 patients with Osteoporosis. In another study, the 246 patients with Osteoporosis stated that Calcitonin therapy effectively reduced acute pain in daily functions such as walking, standing, sitting, and resting within a week. 

Conclusion

concluding benefits of calcitonin in the body

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The hormones produced by the thyroid gland influence most of your body’s metabolic processes. Thyroid issues can range from a small, harmless goiter that needs zero treatment to life-threatening cancer. The most common problems involve abnormal production of thyroid hormones.

We know that Calcitonin is used to treat Paget’s disease of bone among others and researchers are saying that this hormone might also help to prevent the destruction of joints commonly associated with Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease related to cartilage breakdown in the joints leading to joint damage. A new study has shown that treatment with Calcitonin, effectively prevented the erosion of knee cartilage in rats.  

If you suspect a thyroid problem, the first step is having your doctor perform a blood test. It is wise to understand your options when setting the appointment for your blood work. Ask the nurse if you should refrain from eating or not and whether you should take medications prior to the appointment.