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Kidneys and Bone Disease

The kidneys play a very important role in the health of your bones. The kidneys work with the parathyroid glands, (named for their proximity to the thyroid gland, but their function is very different than thyroid gland) to regulate calcium and phosphorus.

Normally, we obtain vitamin D from sunlight or our diet. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our diets but it must be activated first in the liver and then in the kidneys. Dietary vitamin D deficiency is very common in the general population.

Also, if the kidneys are not working properly, then the kidneys cannot activate vitamin D and the calcium cannot be fully absorbed. In this situation, blood calcium levels can fall. When the calcium levels fall, the parathyroid glands become active to leach calcium from bones and into the circulation and return calcium levels to normal.

A second factor can affect the activity of the parathyroid glands. If the kidneys are not working properly, then they cannot get rid of all the phosphate in our diet. Then the phosphate levels can rise. This also activates the parathyroid glands. High phosphorous also accelerates the decline in kidney function.

Parathyroid hormone can instruct the kidney to work harder at excreting phosphate. Yet when this occurs, the parathyroid hormone still works on the bones to liberate calcium. When this hormone damages the bones to keep the blood levels of calcium and phosphorus normal, this is called renal osteodystrophy or renal bone disease.

Page last updated: October 24, 2014