: any of usually four small endocrine glands that are adjacent to or embedded in the thyroid gland, are composed of irregularly arranged secretory epithelial cells lying in a stroma rich in capillaries, and produce parathyroid hormone
Endocrine gland located close to and behind the thyroid gland. Humans typically have four parathyroid glands. Each gland secretes parathyroid hormone, which regulates blood calcium and phosphate levels. When serum calcium concentrations drop, increased hormone secretion releases calcium from bone into the bloodstream (seecalcium deficiency). An increase in parathyroid hormone secretion also increases excretion of phosphate in the urine, thereby lowering serum phosphate concentrations. In addition, the hormone regulates magnesium metabolism by increasing its excretion. When thyroid removal is required, the parathyroid glands must be separated out and left in place to avoid hypoparathyroidism (parathyroid hormone deficiency). See alsoendocrine system.