Calcinosis or calcinosis cutis is the accumulation of calcium deposits in or under the skin. These deposits resemble small white lumps and may be hard or soft. If the lumps break through the skin, they leak a white, chalky fluid. They tend to form on pressure points such as the fingertips, hands and feet, and around joints.

What causes calcinosis?

Calcinosis can be caused by damage to the skin as a result of trauma, infection or tumors. People with connective tissue diseases such as systemic scleroderma, dermatomyositis and cutaneous lupus erythematosus may also develop calcinosis. Excessive vitamin D intake may also cause calcinosis and so can taking calcium or phosphate.

How is calcinosis diagnosed?

No specific tests exist to diagnose calcinosis, though it is usually quite obvious on examination. In case of uncertainty, an X-ray can be used to diagnose the condition.

How is calcinosis treated?

If calcinosis deposits do not cause discomfort or impede function, they may not require treatment and can be left alone if the patient so desires. But some deposits can be annoying and painful. In some cases, they may break through the skin and lead to local secondary infections that require antibiotic treatment.

Calcinosis deposits occasionally resolve themselves spontaneously.  Some patients find that a paraffin wax bath helps soften the deposits and discharge them.

If calcinosis deposits become very painful, cause recurrent secondary infections or impair function, a doctor may recommend surgical removal. Unfortunately, these deposits usually come back after such surgery.

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