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What is calciphylaxis?

Calciphylaxis is a rare and severe condition that is characterized by the buildup of calcium within the small blood vessels of the skin and fat tissue. In the majority of patients, kidney failure is present, although this is not always the case. 

What are the symptoms of calciphylaxis?

Affected individuals experience painful and deep lumps which go on to ulcerate. They become open sores characterized by black-brown crust and an inability to heal. While these lumps can form anywhere, they are most common in areas with high fat contents, such as the stomach and thighs. Infections are common, as these ulcers remain open. The other symptom is large, purple patterns on the skin that resemble nets. 

The complications of this condition are severe and include blood infections, intense pain, and death. 

What causes calciphylaxis?

While there is no confirmed cause of calciphylaxis, medical professionals suspect that abnormalities in blood-clotting factors play a role. Additionally, affected individuals typically have imbalances in calcium metabolism. These lead to calcium deposits in the arterioles, which then lead to blood clots. 

Medical professionals have also identified a number of risk factors. The most common factor is end-stage kidney disease. Additional risk factors include being female, treatment with long-term dialysis, kidney transplantation, obesity, diabetes, overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH), abnormalities in blood-clotting factors, treatment with certain medications (e.g., Jantoven, Coumadin, corticosteroids), uremia, and an imbalance in phosphorus, calcium, and aluminum. 

How is calciphylaxis diagnosed?

The first steps a doctor will take in diagnosing calciphylaxis are an assessment of the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. This will be followed by tests such as a skin biopsy, imaging tests like X-rays, and blood tests. 

What are the treatments for calciphylaxis?

There are numerous methods to treat calciphylaxis, such as:

  • Anticoagulation medications
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Low-dose tissue plasminogen activator (TPA)
  • Dialysis
  • Evaluation and possible changing of current medication regimen
  • Surgery
  • Intensive wound treatment for the open sores

Where can I find out more about calciphylaxis?

Calciphylaxis Articles