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Pathologic Calcification - Types, Causes, and Symptoms

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

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nagaraj

Published At January 3, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 19, 2023

Introduction

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.

  • Atherosclerosis (valves of the heart).

  • Dementia (cranial calcification found in the brain).

  • Arthritis (calcifications in joints and tendons).

  • Arterial calcification.

  • Kidney and bladder stones

  • Calcinosis cutis (calcifications in the skin).

  • Calculus (dental tartar, which is calcified plaque).

  • Corneal calcifications in the eye.

  • Stones in the gallbladder.

  • Salivary gland stones.

  • Testicular calcifications.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Are the Pathologic Changes Related to Graves' Disease?

The following are some of Graves disease's most common physical signs, categorized by anatomic region: Elevated basal metabolic rate and weight reduction despite increased or the same hunger. Warm, fine skin; excessive perspiration; fine hair; vitiligo (a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches); alopecia (loss of hair); pretibial myxedema.

2.

Which Pathophysiologic Activity Is Most Likely to Cause Metastatic Calcification?

Metastatic calcification is due to significantly elevated serum calcium levels. Because the parathyroid gland regulates blood calcium levels, hyperparathyroidism raises the possibility of hypercalcemia and subsequent metastatic calcification. Metastatic calcification is not caused by benign prostatic hypertrophy, cirrhosis, or poor glycogen metabolism.

3.

What Is the Treatment for Dystrophic Calcification?

In rare instances. Dystrophic calcification has been observed to dissolve completely. The first-line treatment is medical therapy, which includes the administration of Etidronate disodium, Sodium warfarin, Diltiazem, Aluminium hydroxide, and intralesional corticosteroids.

4.

What Causes Dystrophic Calcification?

When calcium gets deposited at the site of injury or necrosis is produced by physical trauma, inflammation, injections, or the existence of parasites, dystrophic calcification takes place. It generally arises early in childhood, although it is often detected later since there are no signs or symptoms of calcification.

5.

How Does Pathologic Calcification Occur?

Mitochondrial or matrix vesicle biologic membranes typically start pathologic calcification. Mitochondria commonly begin intracellular calcification. Pathologic calcification is the accumulation of calcium phosphates (CaP) or other calcific salts at previously unmineralized areas. In hypercalcemic or hyper parathyroid conditions, abnormal buildup can occur in regions of tissue injury (dystrophic calcification).

6.

What Is the Time Taken to Heal Pathologic Calcification?

Around 90 percent of the time, the deposits get removed independently, which may take 12 to 18 months. Throughout this time, pain symptoms may vary.

7.

What Causes Dystrophic Calcification?

This illness is distinguished by tissue damage, which causes deteriorating cells to produce phosphate-binding proteins. The phosphate-binding protein binds to phosphate, which causes calcification. This tissue damage causes persistent inflammation and vascular hypoxia.

8.

What Are the Two Forms of Pathologic Calcification?

- Dystrophic calcification: Calcification occurring in deteriorated and decaying tissues. Plasma calcium and phosphorus levels are normal.
- Metastatic calcification occurs when there is hypercalcemia as the calcium from bone is transported out and deposited in faraway tissues.
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Dr. Nagaraj
Dr. Nagaraj

Diabetology

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