Calciphylaxis

What is Calciphylaxis?

Calciphylaxis is a very uncommon disease that causes pieces of calcium to become entrapped in blood vessels that provide supply to the skin and fat.  This disorder causes ulcers to develop on the skin that become extremely painful. Many times, these ulcers cause infections. If the infection becomes severe enough, it can lead to death.

Typically, people who develop this disorder have kidney failure, are regular dialysis patients, or they have recently received a new kidney through transplant. Even though the majority of patients with this disease have kidney disease, it is possible for people who do not have kidney problems to develop this disorder.

What are the Symptoms for Calciphylaxis?

The symptoms of calciphylaxis can be confused as other conditions related to the kidneys. However, when combined, they are usually attributed to this potentially fatal condition.

Symptoms include

  • Calcification of the blood vessels supplying the skin
  • Ischemic lesions on the muscle below the skin
  • Ischemic lesions of the fat below the skin
  • Hyperparathyroidism, secondary
  • Development of necrotic skin

Calciphylaxis Causes

The direct cause of calciphylaxis is still being studied, but it is known that calcification in the body blocks small, deep blood vessels and results in the necrosis (tissue death) seen in the condition. Higher than normal levels of serum calcium and phosphate can lead to the development of calciphylaxis. It has also been found in patients undergoing kidney dialysis and those who have received a renal transplant.

Studies have discovered that women are more likely than men to develop calciphylaxis and that obesity also plays a factor in increasing the risk of the disease. Additionally, corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive increase the risk of contracting calciphylaxis. Individuals with healthy kidneys may also develop this condition if they experience hypercoagulability, a state of increased blood coagulation. Thrombosis can lead to calciphylaxis, regardless of what prompted the primary condition. Specifically, liver disease and diabetes can make the body more susceptible to hypercoagulability and the increased risk of calciphylaxis.

How is Calciphylaxis Treated?

There is currently not specific treatment for this disorder. However, the treatment that are available depend greatly on early diagnosis for them to be effective. Treatment that are available are meant to treat the early symptoms and may not be able to handle an advanced case of the disease, especially after the blood vessels have already begun to calcify.

Treatment includes

Advanced Wound Teatment

In order for deep wounds to heal, they may have to be debrided, or have the damaged tissue removed. The depth and type of the wound will determine whether the dressing is wet or dry. You may also require intense medicated ointment in order to prevent infection.

Oxygen Restoration

Restoring oxygen supply and adequate blood supply to the skin is extremely important. It will reduce the incidence of sore development and necrotic tissue.

Decreasing the development of calcium deposits and breaking down the ones that are already there. Reducing the number of calcium deposits and preventing further deposits is the most effective treatment.

Your doctor may increase the frequency of your dialysis treatments, and the medications that you use between your dialysis. He may also prescribe medications that reduce calcium, and break down calcium deposits.

If the underlying condition that triggered your condition is caused by an over active thyroid, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove part, or all of your parathyroid.

Calciphylaxis Prevention

Since the direct cause of calciphylaxis is currently unknown, there aren’t any known ways to prevent one from contracting the illness. Instead, the goal is to focus on preventing the onset of other diseases that can trigger calciphylaxis. Education about kidney and liver health, diabetes, and related body functions is recommended, as are frequent screenings to ensure those systems remain functioning in a healthy capacity. Living a healthy lifestyle and decreasing harmful habits, such as smoking or breathing second-hand smoke, will go a long way toward reducing the risk of contracting illnesses that can lead to calciphylaxis.

Physicians and patients work together in pursuing secondary prevention techniques in cases where the patient has already begun to develop calciphylaxis. These treatments include guarding against infection, pain relief, and treating the underlying disease responsible for the outbreak of calciphylaxis. The goal of these treatments is to prevent further spreading of the disease and to avoid further damage.

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Last Reviewed:
September 18, 2016
Last Updated:
November 22, 2017
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