What are calcium deposits in the skin?
Your body uses hydroxyapatite to build and strengthen bones and teeth. Hydroxyapatite is a type of calcium phosphate. Calcification (calcinosis) occurs when abnormal amounts of calcium phosphate are deposited in the body’s soft tissue.
Calcinosis in the skin often appears as white or yellowish lumps.
Calcium deposits in the skin often seem to occur without warning. These bumps might be a sign or symptom of a medical condition.
The primary symptom of calcinosis is the appearance of firm, pimple-like bumps or nodules on the skin that are white or yellow. They also have the following characteristics:
- The bumps can appear in various sizes and quantities.
- They often appear in clusters.
- They are most commonly found on the elbows, fingers, or shins, though they can appear anywhere on the body.
- If punctured, this type of nodule will leak a white, chalky, paste-like material.
- They can cause tenderness and even pain on the affected area
- Bumps arising near joints can cause joint stiffness.
There are four different types of calcium deposits, each based on the cause of the condition:
- dystrophic calcinosis cutis
- iatrogenic calcinosis cutis
- metastatic calcinosis cutis
- idiopathic calcinosis cutis
Dystrophic calcinosis can occur in tissue that is damaged or inflamed, or has become malignant or died. Conditions that can lead to dystrophic calcinosis cutis are:
- skin injury
- skin infections
- connective tissue diseases
Iatrogenic calcinosis are typically attributed to certain medications and medical procedures such as repeated drawing of blood from an infant’s heel.
Metastatic calcinosis can result from any medical condition associated with excess phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia) and calcium (hypercalcemia), including:
- kidney failure
- paraneoplastic hypercalcemia
- milk-alkali syndrome
- excess vitamin D
Idiopathic calcinosis cutisis calcinosis that can’t be attributed to a specific cause. The typical reasons have been ruled out:
- Phosphate and calcium levels in your body are normal.
- There is no evidence of previous tissue damage.
- You’re not taking medications that could trigger calcinosis.
- You haven’t had medical procedures recently that could trigger calcinosis.
Your doctor has a number of different treatments available and will recommend the one they feel is best suited to your situation. Some of those options are:
- intralesional corticosteroids, such as triamcinolone acetonide and triamcinolone diacetate
- calcium channel blockers, such as amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac) and verapamil (Calan, Verelan)
- antacids containing aluminum hydroxide, such as Gaviscon Extra Relief Formula and Acid Gone Antacid
- colchicine (Colcrys), an anti-inflammatory medication
- warfarin (Coumadin, Marevan), used to treat blood clots
- laser therapy, the use of light energy to dissolve the calcium deposits
- iontophoresis, the use of low levels of electric current to dissolve the calcium deposits by delivering medication — such as cortisone — directly to the affected areas
- surgery to remove the calcium deposits
There are a few natural remedies you can try to treat calcium deposits on the skin:
- Massage. Although not necessarily recommended by medical professionals, many people claim that massaging the affected area with aloe vera gel or olive oil eliminates the calcium deposits over time.
- Diet. Many advocates of natural healing suggest lowering your calcium intake and avoiding foods such as dairy products can help.
- Apple cider vinegar. Some believe that drinking 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in 8 ounces of water every day will help break down calcium deposits.
- Chanca piedra. Others suggest the herb chanca piedra can break down the buildup of calcium in the body.
If you discover whitish or yellowish bumps on your skin, visit your doctor to find out if these are calcium deposits. Your doctor can determine if they should be treated or an underlying cause needs to be addressed. They will discuss options with you and recommend a treatment that best aligns with your needs.