Common Causes of Calcium Deposits on Face and Effective Treatments

Calcium Deposits on Face: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
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Small deposits of calcium salts can happen anywhere on the body, but calcium deposits on the face can be especially distressing. Facial calcium deposits can look like small white bumps on the cheeks, forehead, around the eyes, and near the ears. These groups of whitish pimple-like nodules, known as calcinosis cutis, occur just under the skin and can be caused by acne on the face, trauma to the facial skin, an overactive thyroid gland, or other underlying medical conditions.

Getting rid of these calcium deposits from the face can be a challenge. Usually, the best way to get rid of hardened calcium bumps is to treat the underlying health condition. Doctors will usually carry tests to see why calcium deposits occur on the face, joints, and in layers of tissue under the skin’s surface. For example, if too much vitamin D is affecting calcium levels in the body, doctors will address that issue. In some cases, doctors recommend physical removal. However, sometimes the deposits of calcium return to the affected area.

This article explores the various reasons why calcium deposits can appear under the skin on your face. You will also find out the best way to treat calcium pimples on your face.

What Are Calcium Deposits on Face?

The medical term for calcium deposits is calcinosis cutis. According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, this describes a condition where small bumps of hardened calcium appear as white lesions on the surface of the skin or just under the skin’s surface.1 Many times, these deposits of hardened calcium salts appear on the face.

Dermatologist, Dr. Nadine Reiter says that these calcium deposits can be a result of damage to the skin’s tissue, too much calcium in the body, or an imbalance between calcium and phosphate levels. In some cases, there is no underlying condition that causes the hard, white deposits on the face.1

Types of Calcium Deposits on Face

Depending on the cause of calcium deposits on the face, doctors divide calcinosis cutis into 5 main types. According to dermatologists from DermNet New Zealand, these are:2

Dystrophic calcinosis cutis. This buildup of white mineral substance is generally the result of damage or inflammation to the skin. For example, facial acne is a common reason for calcium deposits on the cheeks and forehead because of damage to the dermal layer. In these cases, calcium and phosphate levels in the body are normal.

Metastatic calcinosis cutis. Some underlying health conditions can cause a disruption in calcium and phosphate levels leading to white lesions of calcium on the face and other areas of skin. One common health condition is an overactive thyroid gland that can cause a hormonal imbalance in the body and affect calcium and vitamin D levels.

Idiopathic calcinosis cutis. There is no known cause for idiopathic calcinosis cutis because vitamin and mineral levels are normal and there is no reported damage to the skin’s tissue.

Iatrogenic calcinosis cutis. This is generally the result of taking certain medications. Usually, the calcium deposits on the face and other areas of the body disappear when the person stops taking the medication.

Calciphylaxis. Dr. Fiona Larsen from DermNet New Zealand reports that calciphylaxis causes calcification of the small blood vessels and is generally associated with end-stage kidney disease. However, diabetes and obesity can also cause this serious medical condition that can result in tissue death (gangrene) and can even be fatal.3

Symptoms of Calcium Deposits on Face

1. Whitish or yellowish hard lesions on face

If a certain health condition results in an imbalance of vitamins and minerals in the body, hardened calcium deposits will appear just under the surface of the skin. According to dermatologist, Dr. Tuba Celebi Kayhan, these white hard calcium lesions often appear on the face.4 The calcium deposits on face usually appear as firm, whitish or yellowish lesions, plaques or nodules on the surface of the skin. In many cases these calcium skin bumps grow gradually without any other symptom.2

2. Pain and irritation

However, depending on the type of calcinosis cutis you have, you may also experience other symptoms. Dr. Julia Nunly on Medscape says that sometimes the area around the calcium deposits can be painful and irritated.5

3. Calcium can be deposited in other organs

Also, calcium can be deposited in joints which will cause pain when moving and even affect nerves. Ulcers on the skin can often be a secondary complication of calcinosis cutis. In some cases, these skin wounds can become infected and there could be discharge from the affected area. In severe cases of calcium deposits build up in the capillaries, the result is tissue death and gangrene.

What Causes Calcium Deposits on Face

One or more contributing factors or predisposed medical conditions could lead to hardened deposits of calcium on the face. Here are the most common reasons.

Acne

Acne is a common dermatological condition that can damage the skin and cause calcium deposits on the face. The increased concentration of calcium in the skin after acne can leave hard, whitish or yellowish papules on the skin.

A study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal found that acne can damage the skin’s tissue and cause dystrophic calcinosis cutis. When the skin heals, more calcium can deposit in the skin as collagen and elastic fibers form. This can leave calcium spots ranging in size from very small to about 5 mm. The researchers described this condition as “postacne calcinosis cutis.”6

Trauma to facial skin

Any kind of physical trauma or injury to the facial skin could result in hardened calcium spots that become visible around the injury site. The reasons for this type of dystrophic calcinosis cutis are infections, inflammatory reactions, or tissue diseases.

Dr. Julia Nunley on Medscape says that calcium deposits on the skin can build up after damaged skin has healed.7 You may notice calcium build-ups on your skin in the form of white hard spots if your facial skin has been burned, suffered spider bites, or have had any kind of skin disease.

Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which one or more of the body’s four parathyroid glands is overactive, which creates excess of parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

A problem with your parathyroid glands could cause hormonal and mineral imbalances that can lead to higher levels of calcium in your skin and joints. These higher levels of calcium could cause hard calcium bumps on the face, on other areas of your body, or calcium deposits in joints.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that an overactive parathyroid gland can affect levels of calcium and phosphorus in your body. This can cause levels of calcium to increase and levels of phosphorus to drop. Parathyroid activity also has an effect on levels of vitamin D. This can put you at greater risk of developing kidney stones and having calcium crystals in your urine as well as calcium being deposited in various parts of your body.8

Dr. Julia Nunley on Medscape says that checking for evidence of hyperparathyroidism is one of the tests for finding the cause of a person’s calcinosis cutis.9

Excessive nutrient intake

Sometimes, if you take too many nutrient and mineral supplements, you may notice that calcium deposits appear on your face. An imbalance of minerals in your body can cause a condition called hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the body.

According to information published on safe levels of calcium and vitamin D, if there is too much calcium in the blood, the kidneys can’t reabsorb it. This can lead to calcium deposits in the facial skin as the excess calcium is deposited in the soft tissues of the skin. In extreme cases, this can also affect the kidney’s function and complicate calcinosis cutis even more.10

While vitamin D is necessary to prevent various diseases, too much can cause a buildup of calcium in the body. However, excess vitamin D will not only cause visible calcium buildups on facial tissue, but it could lead to hardened arteries and heart disease.10

Research into the safe levels of calcium and vitamin D report that usually the deposits of calcium are caused by overusing supplements. To find out some great sources of calcium without consuming dairy or turning to supplements, please read my article on great non-dairy sources of calcium. If you are concerned about a vitamin D deficiency, then please read my article about common causes of lack of vitamin D and how to increase vitamin D level in your body.

Paget’s Disease of Bone

Paget’s disease of bone (also named osteitis deformans) is a chronic bone condition that can lead to other medical conditions like increased levels of calcium in the blood. Doctors describe this as metastatic calcinosis because the calcium deposits are caused by another, underlying medical condition.

According to Dr. William Shiel on MedicineNet, Paget’s disease affects the way bones are formed or remodeled and this can affect calcium levels in the body. The result to the bones is that they become weak, brittle, and fragile.11

The journal Calcified Tissue International reported that Paget’s disease causes calcification in the body which usually affects the arteries.12 However, some white calcium pimples may also appear on the face if you have too much calcium deposits in your body.

Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis an autoimmune condition that can cause itchy red patches of skin and lead to muscle weakness. Sometimes, the condition can cause hardened calcium spots on the face and arms.

The Dermatology Online Journal reported about a case of a woman who suffered from dermatomyositis. The woman had developed hard whitish nodules on her face and other areas of her body. After testing the nodules, doctors found that the large nodules were calcium deposits in the soft facial skin.13

The Mayo Clinic reports that dermatomyositis also causes calcium to deposit in muscles, skin, and connective tissue.14

Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is when granulomas or tissue mass form as the result of infections or inflammation. In some cases, this can cause calcium deposits on the face. Sarcoidosis usually affects the skin, eyes, and liver.

According to a report in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, sarcoidosis can cause buildups of calcium because of an increase of vitamin D and phosphorus imbalances. In one case, the hard calcium deposits on the skin were aggravated by overexposure to the sun (an increase in vitamin D) and drinking diet cola drinks (containing phosphorus).16

Dr. Amy Stanway on DermNet New Zealand says that along with the hard, white calcium pimples on the skin, sarcoidosis can cause itching, eczema, and red patches of skin.17

Hemodialysis

People who receive hemodialysis for kidney disease often suffer from calcium deposits on their skin and other parts of their body. The journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation reported that metastatic calcinosis cutis is sometimes the result of hemodialysis. Along with the symptoms of calcinosis, patients can also show signs of sarcoidosis.18

Milk–alkali syndrome

Milk-alkali syndrome is a condition in which there is a high level of calcium in the body (hypercalcemia) caused by taking too many calcium supplements.21

Taking a large number of calcium supplements can cause excessive levels of calcium in the body and result in deposits of hard white stuff on your face and other areas of soft tissue. Calcinosis cutis due to taking too many calcium supplements can be aggravated by high levels of vitamin D.

The journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings reported that excessively high levels of calcium and vitamin D can also severely affect renal function. Doctors reported that regulating proper levels of vitamins and minerals in the body is sometimes enough to resolve the symptoms.22

CREST Syndrome or Scleroderma

Hard, white calcium skin bumps on the face along with thickened patches of skin could be a sign of scleroderma. Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition where the body produces too much collagen. The result is skin that is thick and tight.

According to Dr. Stephanie Gardner on WebMD, a form of scleroderma called CREST syndrome also causes large painful calcium buildups under the skin. Although the calcium deposits usually affect your fingers, they can occur on any part of the body.19

How to Get Rid of Calcium Deposits on Face

Calcium deposits on the face, other soft areas of skin, and in joints are usually the result of chronic conditions that have to be managed. According to Dr. Kristen Fernandez, Assistant Professor from the University of Missouri, treating calcium deposits usually involves a number of strategies including:20

  • Addressing any underlying medical condition that is causing deposits of calcium in the body.
  • Reducing levels of calcium by the use of medication or reducing calcium supplements.
  • Managing inflammation in joints.
  • Removing the visible calcium deposits surgically.

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Article Sources

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  2. DermNetNZ. Calcinosis cutis.
  3. DermNetNZ. Calciphylaxis.
  4. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2009;75:180-1.
  5. Medscape. Calcinosis cutis clinical presentation.
  6. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015 Dec; 6(Suppl 1): S37–S39.
  7. Medscape. Calcinosis cutis clinical presentation – causes.
  8. MayoClinic. Hyperparathyroidism.
  9. Medscape. Calcinosis cutis workup.
  10. NCBI. Tolerable upper intake levels: calcium and vitamin D.
  11. MedicineNet. Paget’s disease of bone.
  12. Calcif Tissue Int.2005 Sep;77(3):129-33.
  13. Derm Online J. 14(1):10.
  14. MayoClinic. Dermatomyositis.
  15. J Bone Miner Res.2010 Jul;25(7):1695-9.
  16. DermNetNZ. Sarcoidosis.
  17. Nephrol Dial Transplant.1999 Nov;14(11):2716-9.
  18. Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 Mar; 84(3): 261–267.
  19. WebMD. CREST syndrome and scleroderma.
  20. UpToDate. Calcinosis cutis management.
  21. MedlinePlus. Milk-alkali syndrome.
  22. Milk-Alkali Syndrome.
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