Calciphylaxis Treatment

Calciphylaxis treatment and wound care

Also known as calcific uraemic arteriolopathy, calciphylaxis is a serious but rare disease in which calcium accumulates in the small blood vessels of the skin and fat tissues. Continue reading to learn more and to understand calciphylaxis treatment.

This condition is characterized by the cellular death of the fatty and skin tissues. Patients suffering from end-stage kidney disease have a higher risk of getting this disease.

Other factors and conditions that are associated with elevated calcium levels thus increasing the risk of calciphylaxis include obesity, diabetes, female gender, Caucasian race, hypoalbuminemia, and taking warfarin.

What causes calciphylaxis?

The cause of calciphylaxis is not well understood. The only thing doctors understand about this condition is that it involves calcification that blocks small blood vessels in the skin, resulting in tissue death. The blood vessels are blocked due to thrombosis (clotting of blood), and this causes painful and necrotic areas on the skin.

There are also varied situations that can lead to this disease. If you have normal kidney function, but experience thrombophilia, you're likely to get this rare disease. People with chronic renal failure usually have secondary hyperparathyroidism, which can cause calciphylaxis.

Those who are on a dialysis or had a recent kidney transplant also have high possibilities of suffering from this rare skin condition.

What are the symptoms?

When you have calciphylaxis, you'll notice a purple spot on the skin, and there will be bleeding on the affected area. You may also have blood blisters on the spot, too. After some time, the center of the purple spot will start turning black. This occurs because the skin cells in the affected area die from deprival of blood supply. At this point, you'll experience deep ulcers.

Itching, burning, and severe pain are also some of the symptoms you'll experience at the affected sites. The lesions tend to occur on the lower limb areas with more fats. You can get them on the buttocks, thighs, abdomen, and trunk.

If left untreated, calciphylaxis can lead to various complications such as chronic ulcers, secondary infections, and even death.

Calciphylaxis treatment

First, it's vital to keep in mind that there's no definitive and standard calciphylaxis treatment. Early treatment and diagnosis of the condition can help to prevent some of its effects. So, if you notice any of its symptoms, don't hesitate to visit a doctor for a diagnosis, which may involve a skin biopsy and X-rays.

Doctors may employ different approaches to manage this skin condition. Wound care is usually a priority to manage the lesions and sores on the affected area. This will involve a process known as debridement, whereby the doctor removes some of the damaged tissues through a surgical process. The tissues can also be removed through whirlpool treatments and wet dressings.

You'll also get an antibiotic treatment to prevent an infection to the wound. A health practitioner also prescribes pain medications to the patients.

Another treatment for calciphylaxis is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is done to increase the supply of oxygen to the affected sites. The doctor may also use low-dose tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to try to regulate thrombosis in the small blood vessels of the skin. Anticoagulation medication may also be given to prevent blood clotting and restore blood to the tissues. In this case, the doctor will decide the best medication for you.

When these other options fail to show improvements, the next approach is to try to reduce calcium deposits in the arteries. If you have a prescription for dialysis, your doctor might be forced to switch it to another medication.

There are also medications for reducing calcium levels your doctor will recommend, such as corticosteroids and iron. The doctor will also modify your dose of vitamin D and calcium supplements if you are using them. You may also be given a medication known as cinacalcet (Sensipar) to control parathyroid hormone. Another common medication is sodium thiosulfate, which binds with calcium and passes out with it through urine.

If you have an overactive parathyroid gland that is causing the production of an excess parathyroid hormone (PTH), a surgical operation will be an option to remove a part or all parathyroid glands.

Prevention of calciphylaxis is not known, but if you have risk factors, especially patients with chronic renal failure, seek medical attention and guidance. In most cases, calciphylaxis patients die due to an infection.

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Last Reviewed:
August 21, 2017
Last Updated:
October 18, 2017