Calcium deposits in the skin may appear as small, white-yellow bumps that are firm to touch. Various factors can lead to calcium deposits. They may have an underlying cause too.
These bumps can form on the face or body, and are a result of excess amounts of calcium phosphate in the skin. What causes this condition? How can you treat it? Here, we discuss everything you need to know about calcium deposits on skin and the best modes of treatment. Read on.
Table Of Contents
What Are Calcium Deposits In The Skin?
Calcium deposits in the skin are medically termed as calcinosis cutis. Calcium salts are deposited in the skin and the subcutaneous tissue. These bumps may appear on any part of the body but are most commonly found on the fingertips, elbows, and knees. They may also appear on the face in some cases. Calcinosis cutis is also often associated with systemic sclerosis (1).
Unfortunately, calcium deposits tend to occur without any warning. The appearance of stiff, white bumps under the skin with a pimple-like appearance is usually the most notable calcinosis cutis symptom. Other symptoms of this condition are listed in the next section.
Symptoms Of Calcium Deposits In The Skin
In addition to the firm, pimple-like nodules under the skin, calcinosis cutis also has other symptoms:
- Hard bumps or nodules appearing in clusters of varying sizes.
- While most bumps are painless, some may cause tenderness and mild pain.
- If bumps arise near joints, they could lead to stiffness and pain.
- If these calcium deposits are punctured, you will find a chalky white material oozing out.
Visit your doctor if you notice uneven calcium spots in your skin. Your doctor would assess the symptoms and refer you to appropriate clinical investigations to establish the further course of action.
How Is Calcinosis Cutis Diagnosed?
As calcium deposits are often the result of increased calcium phosphate levels in the body, your doctor may recommend laboratory tests to determine any metabolic abnormalities. Biopsy of cutaneous lesions is often performed to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays are another way to check for calcified crystals under the skin.
Medical investigations are also used to determine the underlying cause, which eventually determine the line of treatment your doctor will recommend for the condition.
Calcinosis cutis is a rare condition but is attributable to several causes, as explained in the next section.
Causes For Calcium Deposits Under The Skin
Calcium deposits on the face, arms, legs, and other parts of the body become visible when there’s an excess amount of calcium phosphate deposited in the skin and the subcutaneous tissue.
Calcium is an important mineral. The body uses calcium phosphate for building healthy bones and teeth, and for boosting muscle and nerve function.
However, trauma, inflammation, some infections, and even certain types of medications may increase the levels of calcium and phosphorous in the body. Certain autoimmune disorders are also said to result in calcinosis cutis.
Medically, five different types of calcium deposits have been identified. We have discussed them in the following section.
Types Of Calcium Deposits In The Skin
Calcium deposits in the skin are generally divided into the following five sub-types.
1. Dystrophic Calcinosis Cutis
Injury, trauma, and skin infections might lead to dystrophic calcinosis cutis. Though the calcium and phosphorous levels in the body are normal, the phosphate proteins released by the dying tissue lead to the calcification of the area (1).
Common causes of tissue damage include:
- Skin infections
- Systemic sclerosis
- Connective tissue diseases like lupus
2. Iatrogenic Calcinosis Cutis
This type of calcinosis is attributable to certain medication and repeated medical procedures, like drawing blood from an infant’s heel. Calcium deposits may also appear at the site of an invasive procedure as a side effect, leading to iatrogenic calcinosis (1).
Some of the identified reasons for this type of calcinosis are:
- Heel sticks in newborns
- Administration of solutions or medicines with calcium and phosphate
- Intravenous calcium chloride and calcium gluconate used in the treatment of certain diseases
- Prolonged exposure to the electrode paste used during an electromyograph
3. Metastatic Calcinosis Cutis
High calcium phosphate levels in the body lead to calcium salts that may form nodules on the skin. Causes for high levels of calcium and phosphate include (1):
- Kidney problems
- Excessive intake of vitamin D
- Milk-alkali syndrome, which refers to excessive calcium intake from foods and antacids
- Bone diseases, like Paget’s disease
4. Idiopathic Calcinosis Cutis
This type of calcinosis cannot be attributed to a particular cause. The cause of idiopathic calcinosis cutis is unclear, though it is not caused by any of the usual factors. It may appear in the form of nodules on the scrotum or bumps just below the skin (1).
This is an uncommon condition where calcium accumulates in the small blood vessels of the skin and fat tissues (1). It may lead to painful ulcers on the skin and blood clots. If untreated, serious flare-ups may even lead to death.
The causes for calciphylaxis remain unknown, but some of the associated factors include obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney failure, and hyperparathyroidism.
Calcinosis Cutis does have certain treatment options available. We have discussed the same in the next section.
How To Treat Calcium Deposits Under The Skin
It is important to establish the underlying cause of calcinosis cutis before proceeding with the treatment. Medical therapy may relieve symptoms, but no specific cure has yet been found for the condition.
- Non-Invasive Procedures
No treatment has been accepted as standard therapy for calcinosis yet. However, various medicines have been reported to be beneficial, including the use of warfarin, bisphosphonates, minocycline, ceftriaxone, diltiazem, aluminum hydroxide, probenecid, intralesional corticosteroids, and intravenous immunoglobulin (2).
In another review, minocycline was found to be a viable treatment option for calcification associated with systemic sclerosis (3). While the medicine only moderately reduced the size of the lesions, it did reduce ulceration and inflammation.
Another method of eliminating skin calcifications is via extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) (4). Your doctor will use sound waves to break the calcium salts, allowing your body to absorb them.
- Invasive Procedures
In some cases, your doctor may perform invasive techniques to remove the calcium deposits from the skin. Some methods include curettage and carbon dioxide laser treatments (1).
However, the deposits may reappear even after surgery, depending on the severity and type of condition. Therefore, it is imperative to identify the root cause of the disease and work towards eliminating it.
You may also consider the following alternative treatments for managing a case of calcinosis cutis.
How To Treat Calcium Deposits Under The Skin Naturally
While there’s no proven remedy for removing calcium deposits, there are a few natural remedies that may help you deal with the condition.
A low calcium and phosphate diet may help treat calcium deposits in the skin (5). However, changing your diet alone may not reduce the bumps and may be ineffective altogether if the case is severe.
Some natural healers recommend massaging the affected areas with aloe vera and coconut oil to eliminate calcium deposits. Massages, when supplemented with other treatment methods, have been shown to reduce the deposition of calcium in tendons (6).
Heat massage may also help treat the underlying conditions for calcinosis, including Raynaud’s disease. However, there is not enough evidence to prove the effectiveness of this technique.
In mice studies, regular intake of apple cider vinegar in water aided calcium absorption (7). It is believed that drinking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water daily may break down calcium deposits in the body. However, there is no research to support this remedy.
- Chanca Piedra
Chanca piedra, which means ‘stone breaker’, is another name for Phyllanthus niruri, a plant often used to break down kidney stones. Anecdotal evidence suggests that chanca piedra extracts may help eliminate calcium deposits. However, this natural treatment has limited concrete research.
Do Calcium Deposits Disappear On Their Own?
Fortunately, calcium bumps tend to disappear on their own in some cases. Smaller deposits are often absorbed by your body in a month or two. But in extreme cases, the hardened bumps on your skin may not clear out on their own. In such cases, you should get the deposits removed immediately.
Are Calcium Deposits Harmful?
Although calcium deposits are not generally harmful, it is advisable not to leave them untreated.
If the deposits last longer than 1 to 2 months, cause extreme pain and discomfort, or continue to grow in size or number, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Calcium deposits on the face or any other part of the body may appear suddenly in the form of yellowish or whitish bumps. In case you discover such bumps, see a doctor immediately to determine the underlying cause.
Although there is no proven treatment, the condition is generally manageable once the cause is confirmed. Therefore, do not delay treatment and follow your doctor’s instructions thoroughly. With timely intervention, you should be able to deal with the deposits very well and lead a normal life as always.
- Calcinosis Cutis
- Calcinosis cutis: part II. Treatment options
- Treatment of cutaneous calcinosis in limited systemic sclerosis with minocycline
- Treatment of calcinosis cutis by extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy
- Cutaneous Tumors and Tumor Syndromes: Calcinosis Cutis
- A conservative management protocol for calcific tendinitis of the shoulder
- Enhancing effect of dietary vinegar on the intestinal absorption of calcium in ovariectomized rats