Basal ganglia calcification is when calcium deposits form in your brain. It can potentially cause a variety of neurological symptoms and can affect mood, perceptions, and behavior.
The basal ganglia is an area of your brain that’s involved in controlling movement. Health conditions that affect the basal ganglia can cause involuntary movements and difficulty controlling movement. Basal ganglia calcification (BGC) is one example. Other examples include Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
BGC happens when calcium deposits form in the basal ganglia. There’s no cure, but treatment can help manage symptoms.
This article reviews the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment for BGC.
BGC includes different neurological disorders in which calcium deposits develop in the
There are two general types of BGC:
- Primary BGC results from genetic changes and may also be called Fahr disease.
- Secondary BGC is associated with an underlying health condition and may also be called
Overall, BGC is rare. However, the exact prevalence isn’t known. Previous research has found incidental evidence of BGC in
Can basal ganglia calcification cause stroke?
However, the link between BGC and stroke
The symptoms of BGC can vary in severity. Some people may have no symptoms, while others may have very severe symptoms.
Generally, BGC symptoms can be divided into two categories: neurological and neuropsychiatric.
Neurological symptoms can include:
- Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms such as:
- muscle spasticity
- uncoordinated movement (ataxia)
- involuntary movements such as:
- repetitive or twisting movements (dystonia)
- rapid, jerky movements (chorea)
- writhing movements (athetosis)
- slurred speech
The neuropsychiatric symptoms of BGC can include:
Calcification generally happens in and around blood vessels and spreads to involve nearby nerve cells. Additionally, calcium deposits and inflammation can restrict blood flow in your brain, resulting in further damage to nerve cells.
The possible causes of BGC often depend on whether you have primary or secondary BGC.
Primary BGC is caused by genetic changes. Some changes may happen randomly, while others may be inherited from parents in an autosomal manner:
- Autosomal dominant inheritance means you need only one copy of an affected gene to have a condition.
- Autosomal recessive inheritance means you need two copies of an affected gene (one from each parent) to have a condition.
Most inherited cases of BGC are autosomal dominant, but there are also less common autosomal recessive variants of the condition.
Symptoms of primary BGC typically begin at age
Secondary BGC is associated with other health conditions, including:
- parathyroid disease
- autoimmune diseases such as lupus
- infections such as:
- infections acquired in the womb or shortly after birth, such as:
- inherited diseases such as:
- lipoid proteinosis
- exposure to a toxin such as lead or carbon monoxide
The onset of secondary BGC typically happens at
To diagnose BGC, a doctor will get a detailed medical history and do a physical exam.
A doctor will perform a neurological exam to assess your:
- mental status
Lab tests (blood and urine)
To determine what’s causing your symptoms, a doctor may order the following laboratory tests:
- blood tests such as:
- tests to find out whether heavy metals are present in your blood or urine
- cerebrospinal fluid analysis to check for evidence of infections
If your doctor has ruled out secondary causes of BGC, they may order a blood test to see whether you have genetic changes linked to primary BGC.
There’s no cure for BGC. Instead, treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
Medications that may be used to help with symptoms include:
- drugs to ease headache pain
- antiseizure drugs to reduce the risk of seizures
- Parkinson’s drugs to reduce symptoms associated with parkinsonism
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or antipsychotics to help with neuropsychiatric symptoms
If you have secondary BGC, your doctor will also work to address the underlying health condition that’s contributing to the calcifications.
The outlook for BGC can vary for each person and
BGC happens when calcium deposits build up in the basal ganglia and sometimes other parts of your brain. It can cause a variety of neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
BGC can be either primary or secondary. Primary BGC is the result of genetic changes, while secondary BGC is related to the effects of another underlying health condition.
There’s no cure for BGC. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and addressing underlying health conditions, if any are present.