Calciphylaxis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Calciphylaxis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Calciphylaxis is a rare condition in which excess calcium forms in a person’s blood vessels and arteries. This buildup can cause clotting and lead to very painful skin lesions.

Calciphylaxis usually occurs in people with kidney disease.

It can be a serious condition that can have a high mortality rate. A person who thinks they have calciphylaxis should see a doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

In this article, we explore the symptoms and causes of calciphylaxis. We also examine the complications of the condition and how doctors diagnose and treat it.

Common Signs and symptoms of calciphylaxis may include:

Sometimes a person can also develop:

These symptoms can vary from person to person and in severity. In severe cases, the condition may have a very high mortality rate.

Symptoms of kidney disease

A person usually develops calciphylaxis because they have kidney disease, which can go undetected in its early stages. However, the symptoms of late-stage kidney disease can include:

Researchers don’t know the exact cause of calciphylaxis. However, it usually occurs due to a buildup of calcium in the blood vessels. This buildup could result from a disruption in the way the body’s mineral metabolizes certain minerals.

A 2018 review suggests that people who depend on dialysis, such as those with kidney disease, have impaired mineral metabolism, which can lead to calcium buildup.

Research suggests that a person can be more like develop calciphylaxis if they are female or of Caucasian ethnicity.

People who have the following conditions may also be more likely to develop calciphylaxis:


Some medications can increase a person’s risk of developing calciphylaxis, such as:

The most common reason for developing calciphylaxis may be advanced kidney failure. Calciphylaxis occurs around 0.04 to 4% of dialysis patients.

A complication of calciphylaxis can be severe pain due to skin lesions and ulcers. These complications could result in a person having reduced mobility.

Also, skin lesions may not heal. They can also lead to infections, which can occur due to open wounds and usually affect the blood.

Sepsis is also possible due to calciphylaxis. It occurs when a person’s body attacks tissues and organs in response to another infection. Sepsis can be life-threatening.

People should see a doctor right away if they think they may have calciphylaxis.

Doctors may review a person’s medical history, ask for more information about symptoms, and perform a physical exam.

Researchers in 2019 suggested that a person with end-stage kidney disease may be diagnosed with calciphylaxis if they develop skin ulcers.

diagnostic tools

A person may require a biopsy of one of their lesions to rule out other similar conditions. Alternatively, a medical professional may perform a biopsy if a person is in the early stages of kidney disease.

However, biopsies can sometimes aggravate ulcers and cause bleeding or infection. This is why some medical professionals may sometimes choose not to perform one if they are confident in their diagnosis.

Blood tests can also show calcium levels in the blood. Also, x-rays can show any calcium deposits in the body.

exist several Methods for treating calciphylaxis. Multiple healthcare specialists in nephrology, dermatology, wound care, and pain management will need to coordinate to find the best treatment for an individual.

The goal of treatment involves:

  • optimize wound care
  • stop the progression of vessel wall calcification
  • reverse vessel wall calcification


Doctors used cinacalcet to treat high calcium levels in hyperparathyroidism in people on long-term dialysis for kidney disease. Hyperparathyroidism refers to the overactive functioning of the parathyroid glands.

Cinacalcet usually comes in a tablet form and is taken orally by a person. A 2019 review states that people showed a high response rate to medication for the treatment of calciphylaxis.

A 2019 review stated that sodium thiosulfate is a common treatment for calciphylaxis: doctors gave it to 50.3% of people with the condition. Although it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), doctors can prescribe it off-label to help reduce calcium buildup in the arteries.

Also, doctors may administer sodium thiosulfate intravenously into a vein during a dialysis session.

wound care

A person may receive antibiotics for their wounds to prevent infection. In addition, a health professional can dress the wounds if necessary.

Doctors can use debridement to remove dead tissue from wounds. Sometimes this procedure may involve surgery.

Learn more about open wound care.

hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can promote wound healing. It involves wounds being exposed to oxygen at a much higher pressure than usual. This helps speed up the healing process.

A analysis 2015 concluded that this therapy benefited more than half of the people they evaluated. The authors also hinted that this could increase a person’s life expectancy.

Kidney transplant

Some research presents three case studies of people who received an urgent kidney transplant after developing calciphylaxis. All patients had stage 5 kidney failure.

All three individuals recovered from calciphylaxis after their transplant.

the mortality rate for calciphylaxis it is around 30% at 6 months and 50% at 12 months. Research suggests that septicemia, or blood poisoning, due to wound infection is the leading cause of death in people with calciphylaxis.

The sooner a doctor diagnoses a person’s symptoms, the sooner treatment can be started to improve outcomes.

There are limited preventive treatments once a person has ESRD.

Medical professionals may monitor and attempt to control calcium and mineral levels in someone with end-stage kidney disease to prevent calciphylaxis.

Doctors can also educate and screen people at risk of developing calciphylaxis to help prevent it.

Calciphylaxis is a rare and serious condition that affects people with end-stage kidney disease. It usually produces very painful lesions on the skin that can lead to infection.

The mortality rate is high in people with calciphylaxis. However, treatment options can help promote wound healing and control pain. However, there are limited preventive treatments for people who enter end-stage kidney disease.

People should seek immediate medical attention if they think they may have calciphylaxis. This helps rule out other conditions and makes it easier to treat early for more positive results.

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