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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the effect of too much or too little calcium on the body
  • Explain the process of calcium homeostasis

Calcium is not only the most abundant mineral in bone, it is also the most abundant mineral in the human body. Calcium ions are needed not only for bone mineralization but for tooth health, regulation of the heart rate and strength of contraction, blood coagulation, contraction of smooth and skeletal muscle cells, and regulation of nerve impulse conduction. The normal level of calcium in the blood is about 10 mg/dL. When the body cannot maintain this level, a person will experience hypo- or hypercalcemia.

Hypocalcemia , a condition characterized by abnormally low levels of calcium, can have an adverse effect on a number of different body systems including circulation, muscles, nerves, and bone. Without adequate calcium, blood has difficulty coagulating, the heart may skip beats or stop beating altogether, muscles may have difficulty contracting, nerves may have difficulty functioning, and bones may become brittle. The causes of hypocalcemia can range from hormonal imbalances to an improper diet. Treatments vary according to the cause, but prognoses are generally good.

Conversely, in hypercalcemia    , a condition characterized by abnormally high levels of calcium, the nervous system is underactive, which results in lethargy, sluggish reflexes, constipation and loss of appetite, confusion, and in severe cases, coma.

Obviously, calcium homeostasis is critical. The skeletal, endocrine, and digestive systems play a role in this, but the kidneys do, too. These body systems work together to maintain a normal calcium level in the blood ( [link] ).

Pathways in calcium homeostasis

In this illustration, the two mechanisms that maintain calcium homeostasis are shown as two semicircles that are combined, one on top of each other, to make a complete circle. Homeostasis occurs along the diameter of the circle, at the border between the two semicircles. At homoeostasis, normal calcium levels are 10 milligrams per deciliter. The upper semicircle represents the mechanism that reduces elevated calcium levels in the blood when the levels are too high. First, the thyroid gland releases calcitonin. Calcitonin activity inhibits osteoclasts and decreases the reabsorption of calcium ions in the kidney. These two actions cause calcium ion levels in the blood to drop back to homeostasis. The lower semicircle represents the mechanisms that increase calcium levels in the blood when the levels are too low. First, the parathyroid glands release PTH. PTH stimulates osteoclast activity, causing calcium ions to be released from bone. PTH also increases the reabsorption of calcium by the kidney. In addition, PTH also increases calcium absorption in the small intestines via Vitamin D synthesis. These three actions cause calcium ion levels in the blood to increase.
The body regulates calcium homeostasis with two pathways; one is signaled to turn on when blood calcium levels drop below normal and one is the pathway that is signaled to turn on when blood calcium levels are elevated.

Calcium is a chemical element that cannot be produced by any biological processes. The only way it can enter the body is through the diet. The bones act as a storage site for calcium: The body deposits calcium in the bones when blood levels get too high, and it releases calcium when blood levels drop too low. This process is regulated by PTH, vitamin D, and calcitonin.

Cells of the parathyroid gland have plasma membrane receptors for calcium. When calcium is not binding to these receptors, the cells release PTH, which stimulates osteoclast proliferation and resorption of bone by osteoclasts. This demineralization process releases calcium into the blood. PTH promotes reabsorption of calcium from the urine by the kidneys, so that the calcium returns to the blood. Finally, PTH stimulates the synthesis of vitamin D, which in turn, stimulates calcium absorption from any digested food in the small intestine.

When all these processes return blood calcium levels to normal, there is enough calcium to bind with the receptors on the surface of the cells of the parathyroid glands, and this cycle of events is turned off ( [link] ).

When blood levels of calcium get too high, the thyroid gland is stimulated to release calcitonin ( [link] ), which inhibits osteoclast activity and stimulates calcium uptake by the bones, but also decreases reabsorption of calcium by the kidneys. All of these actions lower blood levels of calcium. When blood calcium levels return to normal, the thyroid gland stops secreting calcitonin.

Chapter review

Calcium homeostasis, i.e., maintaining a blood calcium level of about 10 mg/dL, is critical for normal body functions. Hypocalcemia can result in problems with blood coagulation, muscle contraction, nerve functioning, and bone strength. Hypercalcemia can result in lethargy, sluggish reflexes, constipation and loss of appetite, confusion, and coma. Calcium homeostasis is controlled by PTH, vitamin D, and calcitonin and the interactions of the skeletal, endocrine, digestive, and urinary systems.

Questions & Answers

what is ventricular circulation
Maryam Reply
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what factors that affect the rate diffusion
Gift Reply
sorry what are the common meaning of haemostatis
Juma Reply
what are the negatives feedback regulation of ADH
Nansi Reply
what is the the differences between DNA and RNA?
Mustapha
The major differences between the DNA and RNA are contain of double stranded and single stranded which the DNA contain duoble stranded and RNA contain single stranded.
Juma
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Juma
How many genes consist of DNA?
Omaryare
omaryare muhyadiin when you talk about genes, is the material formed in a DNA genes have form like plasma have many genes round there
Juma
aldosterone, renin
Conan
to know the different structures of the body To know how the body works To know more about our body parts
Deitdre Reply
hi Deitdre you tock about knowledge or you ask the question
Juma
do you need any explanation when reading this book?
janet Reply
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Hashir
yes
Balogun
Yes
Mariam
yes
Sale
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Mustapha
if have many ability just do it!!
Juma
compare and contrast the operation of homeostasis
Dinelle Reply
what is the difference between an ionic, polar covalent and nonpolar covalent bond?
Dinelle
In summary, the bond has different in electronegativity.
Balogun
sorry help me to get the definition of hemostasis or the meaning
Juma
the definition of distal
Dinelle Reply
farthest away from the attachment point.
felix
Distal, is the farthest possition from the origin or midle point
Juma
exercise physiologist how ?
Noor Reply
hi noorr. when you talk about physiologist its a person who study physiology but exercise physiologist is what an exercise doing by physiologist in physiologican
Juma
can I get the questions of human physiology that is present in HSC 2nd semester
Rafiullah Reply
in my lerning the question com like for example ni eassy qustion must understand the the part of the body and how it work or mechanisms of each part learned
Juma
how can I memorize
mukhtaar Reply
which part of the body produces blood
aadil
give me answer
aadil
Red blood cells are formed in the red bone marrow ofbones. Stem cells in the red bone marrow called hemocytoblasts give rise to all of the formed element
mukhtaar
what is hemocytoblasts
Fatima
hemocytoblasts are stem cells in red bone marrow which give rise the all of formed elements
Khawaja
Discuss clonal theory in physiology and its application in measles infection in a 6yr child? Can anyone help me
Isaac Reply
Capillary permeability
what do you want to know about it?
Ramsin
Hello, I want to search about the topic, information and pictures
syncitium is the property of which of the following muscle
Shahab Reply
can I get the questions of human physiology that is present in HSC 2nd semester
Sai Reply
i now madam
irpa
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Sai
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Nazirullah
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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