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Pathologic Calcification - Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Published on Jan 03, 2023 and last reviewed on Jan 19, 2023   -  5 min read


Calcium deposits can be found at sites that are not normally mineralized. To know more about the pathology of calcification, read the article below.


When calcium deposits in the vessels, organs, or tissue, it leads to calcification. This deposition of calcium hardens and disturbs the body's process. Calcium is an important mineral found in the cells of the body. Bones and teeth have lots of calcium in them. It is present in blood and easily moves to all organs of the body. Excess calcium is excreted through urine.

What Is Pathologic Calcification?

Pathologic calcification is the term used when calcium deposits in unusual places and causes problems. Calcification occurs as a protective mechanism after cell injury or death.

What Are the Types of Calcifications?

Calcium deposition is a type of inflammatory response in the body. It can occur in any tissue of the body. Some of the calcifications mentioned below can be harmful to the body.

What Are the Causes of Calcification?

Calcification occurs as an inflammatory response to trauma, autoimmune disease, or infection. Dystrophic calcifications occur as a healing response. The following are the causes of calcifications.

  • Hypercalcemia (increased level of calcium in the blood).

  • Inflammatory diseases.

  • Infectious diseases.

  • Genetic diseases.

  • Autoimmune diseases.

What Are the Risk Factors for Calcification?

Some people are at higher risk for developing calcifications. Not everyone will get calcifications, though. Risk factors include the following.

  • Aging

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Genetic calcium metabolism diseases.

  • Inflammatory diseases.

How to Diagnose Calcifications?

  • X-rays are the use of electromagnetic radiation to visualize the presence of calcifications.

  • Blood tests evaluate the levels of calcium, potassium, and oxalate in the blood.

  • A biopsy involves aspiration of the lesion content and lab testing.

What Are the Symptoms of Calcifications?

Calcific deposits can cause bone pain, and bone spurs under the skin can appear as lumps on the skin. They can cause bow legs or spine curves. Deposits on the teeth can affect gum and bone health. It can lead to bad breath. Corneal calcifications can cause dry eyes, itching, pain, and impaired vision. Muscle calcifications can lead to muscle cramps.

Breast Calcification:

The soft tissue in the breast sometimes calcifies. This calcification can be either large or small. Breast calcifications are commonly seen in older women or women with a history of radiation therapy for breast cancer. Breast calcification can be a predisposing factor for breast cancer in some cases. They can be diagnosed with mammograms. They can be treated with minor surgeries.

Artery Calcification:

Calcifications in the arteries can be detected on the scans. These calcifications worsen with age. People with coronary artery disease are at risk of developing calcifications. It can occur due to metabolism defects, high cholesterol levels, use of tobacco, high blood pressure, kidney disorders, or high levels of C-reactive protein.

Pericardial Calcification:

The normal lining of the heart is replaced with a calcific lining. This causes difficulty in filling the lower chambers of the heart. It shows symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. It is caused due to inflammation of the pericardium, which is the outer lining of the heart, trauma, radiation therapy, connective tissue diseases, or cancer. Treatment includes the use of anti-inflammatory medicines, corticosteroids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgical management needs the removal of a portion of the pericardium.

Kidney Calcifications:

When calcium deposits are found in the kidney, it is called nephrocalcinosis. This occurs due to increased levels of calcium, oxalate, or phosphate in the blood or urine. It is associated with diseases of the parathyroid glands, which are responsible for calcium regulation, vitamin D therapy, and low potassium levels. It does not show any typical symptoms.

Joint and Tendon Calcification:

Calcific tendonitis is the term that describes joint and tendon calcifications. There is a pinching feeling in the calcified area. It can affect the tendons of the shoulder, hip, elbow, or wrist.

Brain Calcification:

Calcium deposits are seen in the basal ganglia of the brain. This occurs due to genetic defects in calcium deposition. Brain calcifications show symptoms like involuntary tensing of muscles, uncontrolled movements, unsteady gait, slow movement, and tremors. People can experience dementia, psychosis, loss of memory, seizures, low concentration, and difficulty in speech. The line of treatment includes speech therapy, stress management, oral medications like Benzodiazepines, Anticholinergics, injections, and surgical treatment if needed.

Teeth Calcification:

Calcium is the major component of teeth. However, excess calcium deposits can be found in the pulp tissue or around the roots. These calcifications can cause difficulty during dental procedures, like root canals and extractions.

Pancreatic Calcification:

Calcification can occur in the pancreas due to chronic infection or inflammation. It can be controlled by avoiding alcohol or smoking. Symptomatic relief can be obtained with the use of pain medications.

How to Treat Calcifications?

Treatment of calcification depends upon the position of the deposit, the cause of the deposit, and the risks involved in treatment. Once the calcific deposits are diagnosed, routine follow-ups are required.

  • Minor calcifications in the artery do not require any treatment.

  • Calcified deposits in the heart valve require surgical intervention.

  • Calcium buildup in kidneys can be treated with medications like Diuretics which will help to break down the calcium deposits.

  • Calcium deposits in joints and tendons can decrease the range of motion. Treatment in such cases is anti-inflammatory medications and cold fomentations.

  • Surgery can be required if symptoms are not relieved.

How to Prevent Calcifications?

Calcium requirements vary according to age; consult a physician to know the body's requirements.

  • Routine blood tests to determine blood calcium levels are needed.

  • Chronic conditions like cholesterol and high blood pressure can increase the risk of calcifications in the body.

  • Long-term use of calcium carbonate can increase the levels of calcium.

  • Disorders of the kidney or diseases related to the parathyroid gland can cause an imbalance in blood calcium levels.

  • Smoking is a risk factor for developing calcifications. Consider quitting smoking to reduce the risk of calcifications.


Calcification is calcium buildup in the body. This buildup can harden and form deposits in vital areas like arteries, soft tissues, and organs. Not all calcifications are harmful. Calcium deposits can be disease markers. However, treatment is necessary according to the extent, location, and cause of these calcifications.

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Last reviewed at:
19 Jan 2023  -  5 min read




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