Measuring the level of phosphorus in the blood is a standard part of a blood test, as high or low levels can indicate the presence of a disorder or disease. The body needs phosphorus for a variety of biological processes. High phosphorus in the blood can be due to a variety of conditions. Low levels can result from an overactive thyroid or pancreas. Resolving unusual phosphorus levels always requires treating the underlying cause.
The body uses phosphorus in a number of ways. Phosphorus is a key component of DNA, the genetic material of every living thing. Most of the body's phosphorus, though, works with calcium to create and maintain strong bones and teeth. To maintain proper biological processes, the body must ingest phosphorus through food and expel it through urine on a daily basis. When this balance is interrupted, it usually means the presence of an underlying condition.
When phosphorus in the blood is higher than normal, it means the body cannot properly eliminate it from the body. One of the most serious conditions that can cause high phosphorus is a bone tumor. As a bone tumor grows, it requires more phosphorus than the body normally requires. A bone tumor can either develop in the bone or be the result of another cancer metastasizing to the bone. Other, less serious conditions have an equal chance of causing high levels of phosphorus.
Hypothyroidism is a more common, less dangerous cause of high phosphorus in the blood. In this condition, the thyroid is less active than normal due to either a deficiency in iodine intake or malfunctioning thyroid. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle/stomach cramps and weight gain. Treatment is simple: a single daily dose of thyroid hormone taken orally.
When the body has lower than normal phosphorus in the blood, a different set of conditions can be responsible. Hypoglycemia is one example. In hypoglycemia, the body releases insulin too quickly and in too large amounts, meaning that individual has a lower than normal blood glucose level. Hypoglycemia occurs mainly in individuals with diabetes. Regular self-monitoring of blood glucose levels can prevent hypoglycemia from developing.
A preventable cause of low phosphorus in the blood is malnutrition. During malnutrition, the body does not ingest an appropriate amount of calories, vitamins and minerals. An individual's weight falls to dangerous levels before the body begins to convert its own tissues into energy to survive. As a result, the levels of phosphorus and other minerals plummet.