Causes and Symptoms of Calcium Deposits on the Face

Understanding Calcinosis Cutis

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There are certain conditions that cause calcium deposits on the face, known as calcinosis cutis. These include autoimmune disorders, acne, kidney disease, and certain high-dose calcium medications. The deposits are caused by the build-up of calcium under the skin and appear as firm, whitish or yellowish bumps.

This article explains the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of calcinosis cutis as well as the current options for treatment.

Image of calcium deposits on finger

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet NZ www.dermnetnz.org 2022

Symptoms

Calcinosis cutis causes small, hard, white or yellowish lumps under the skin. The lumps can vary in size and often appear in clusters. They are generally slow-growing and often start with redness or itching of the skin. Even so, most people have no symptoms before the lumps appear.

Calcinosis cutis can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on the fingertips, around the elbows or knees, or on the shins. Other frequent sites include the face and scrotum.

The lesions usually cause no pain but can be upsetting if they appear on the face. In rare cases, calcium can build up within joints where it can cause pain. If lesions break open or are punctured, a pasty substance may drain out.

Recap

Calcinosis cutis is a condition in which lumps of calcium form beneath the skin, most often on the fingertips, around the elbows or knees, or on the shins.

Causes

Calcium and phosphate are minerals that the body needs to function. They are involved in building bones, maintaining heart rhythm, and other key functions.

Calcinosis cutis is caused either by abnormally high levels of calcium or phosphate in the body or when tissue damage causes the body to release proteins that bind calcium in clumps.

There are several types of calcinosis cutis:

  • Dysmorphic calcinosis cutis occurs when damaged tissues release proteins that bind calcium and phosphate, creating clumps that gradually increase in size. Causes include autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma as well as acne, skin infections, varicose veins, and burns.
  • Iatrogenic calcinosis cutis is caused by the excessive intake or absorption of calcium. This is often related to substances like intravenous (IV) calcium used to treat tuberculosis or calcium chloride paste used on electrodes for brain scans.
  • Metastatic calcium cutis occurs when calcium or phosphate levels are high but there is no tissue damage. When phosphate levels are high, they naturally bind to calcium. Causes include cancer, chronic kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, and sarcoidosis.
  • Idiopathic calcium cutis occurs when calcium and phosphate levels are normal and no cause is found.
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Click Play to Learn All About Calcium Deposits on the Skin

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of calcinosis cutis starts with an examination of the skin and a review of your medical history. Blood tests will be ordered to see if your calcium or phosphate levels are high.

The doctor may order other blood tests to see if an underlying disease is involved. The tests may include:

Imaging studies, including computed tomography (CT) scans and bone scans, can be used to determine the extent of the calcium deposits.

Because calcinosis cutis can be confused for other things, like milia (whiteheads) and gouty tophi (skin growths caused by gout), a biopsy can be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and exclude other causes.

Recap

Calcinosis cutis can be diagnosed with a physical exam, blood tests, and a review of your medical history. A tissue biopsy may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, while imaging studies like a CT scan can determine the extent of the deposits.

Treatment

Because there are many different causes for calcinosis cutis, there are many possible treatments. That said, treatment may not be needed if the deposits are not causing discomfort or distress.

Calcium channel blockers, like Cardizem (diltiazem), Norvasc (amlodipine), and Verelan (verapamil), are among the first-line drugs used to treat calcium deposits. They work by lowering the amount of calcium that can be taken up by skin cells.

The steroid drug prednisone and anti-inflammatory drug Colcrys (colchicine) can reduce inflammation and shrink calcium deposits. The blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin) has similar effects.

If needed or desired, the lesions can be removed or reduced in several ways, including:

  • Surgical excision, involving a scalpel
  • Laser therapy, using light or carbon dioxide laser
  • Iontophoresis, which delivers calcium-dissolving medications through the skin using electrical currents

To get the best long-term results, the doctor will need to treat the root cause.

Recap

Calcinosis cutis can be treated with drugs like calcium channel blockers, prednisone, warfarin, or colchicine that lower calcium levels or reduce inflammation. The lesions can be removed or reduced with surgery, laser therapy, or a procedure known as iontophoresis.

Summary

Calcinosis cutis is the deposit of calcium under the skin that causes firm, whitish or yellowish bumps. It can be caused either when the level of calcium or phosphate in the body is high or when skin trauma causes the body to release proteins that bind calcium into clumps.

The diagnosis may involve a physical exam, blood tests, imaging studies, and a biopsy. If needed, calcinosis cutis can be treated with drugs like calcium channel blockers, prednisone, or colchicine. The lesions can be removed with surgery, lasers, or other procedures.

A Word From Verywell

White bumps on the skin can be upsetting but are especially so when they appear on an area as obvious as the face. Don't assume that any white bump on the face is a calcium deposit, though. There are other skin conditions that may be far more serious.

If you have any unusual bump on the skin, have it checked out by your doctor. If needed, you can be referred to a skin specialist known as a dermatologist for further evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there natural ways to remove calcium deposits on the face?

    Some alternative therapists endorse the use of apple cider vinegar in treating calcium deposits. It has been suggested that apple cider vinegar can partially reverse the calcification of blood vessels. Whether it has any effect on calcium deposits beneath the skin has yet to be proven.

  • Do you have to remove calcium deposits on your body?

    It depends on how large the deposit is and if it is causing any discomfort or distress. If neither is a concern, there is no need to remove calcium deposits as they are generally harmless, If you do decide to have them removed, in-office surgery or laser therapy can be used.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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