Soft tissue calcification is quite common, but knowing the reason behind it is very important, as it can occur with normal metabolism as well as with hypercalcemia. This HealthHearty article explains the differences between dystrophic and metastatic calcification.
|Did You Know?
Calcification itself may not cause any symptoms. So, it can be difficult to detect it on your own. Minor cases of arterial calcification may not require any treatment, but once the valves start constricting, they need to be opened or replaced surgically, which is why regular follow-up is important in such cases.
Calcinosis indicates the buildup of calcium in body tissues. Usually, calcium is directed towards the bones and teeth, and accumulation of calcium helps strengthen them. So, it is useful in such cases. But accumulation of calcium salts in body tissues, or ‘calcification’, can lead to serious conditions. As the essential mineral ‘calcium’ is transported through the bloodstream, it can accumulate in almost any part of the body. Calcium deposition can affect the functions of soft tissues and also the functions of the organs they surround. There exist three types of calcinosis: dystrophic, metastatic, and tumoral.
Injured, damaged, and dying cells cannot maintain metabolic equilibrium. Therefore, intracellular calcium levels increase. Thus, an injury can trigger calcification of a tissue. Certain diseases, neurological disorders, or infections which lead to caseous necrosis (cell death), trauma, prolonged immobility, vitamin K deficiency, aging, tissue damage caused by implantation of a medical device, or even an injection granuloma can eventually lead to dystrophic calcification.
High blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia) naturally lead to high calcium levels in tissues. This condition is referred to as metastatic calcification. Excessive vitamin D intake through supplements can increase the amount of calcium absorbed in the intestines. If the individual has vitamin K deficiency, then this can raise blood calcium levels, and result in metastatic calcification. Like vitamin D, hormones released by the parathyroid gland also govern blood calcium levels. So, underlying conditions such as hyperparathyroidism or hypoparathyroidism can lead to widespread calcification. Similarly, kidney dysfunction can result in elevated blood calcium levels, as the kidneys won’t be able to rid the body of excess calcium and phosphates. Diseases like bone cancer and Pagets disease, which destroy bone tissues, can also lead to this condition.
Compare and Contrast
Although both dystrophic and metastatic calcification involve the calcification of soft tissues, the causes, symptoms, and treatment for these conditions are distinctly varied, which is why the dystrophic vs. metastatic calcification analysis given below is designed to throw light on their noteworthy differences.
|The most common type of calcinosis.
|It is relatively less common.
|It occurs as a response to any soft tissue damage. An individual with normal blood calcium levels and normal metabolism can suffer from this.
|Elevated serum levels of calcium lead to this condition. It indicates systemic mineral imbalance.
|It is localized.
|At a time, it can affect various tissues throughout the body.
|It occurs in degenerated, inflamed, dying, or dead tissues.
|It occurs in normal tissues.
|About 95 – 98% of soft tissue calcifications are dystrophic.
|About 1 – 2% of soft tissue calcifications are metastatic.
|Massive deposits can lead to organ dysfunction. Over time, heterotopic bone may be formed.
|Usually, it does not lead to organ dysfunction, but extensive calcification in the lungs may result in breathing difficulty, and massive deposits in the kidney (nephrocalcinosis) can damage the organ.
|Denatured protein and dead tissue bind phosphate, which reacts with calcium and gets precipitated as calcium phosphate.
|Alkaline pH promotes precipitation of calcium salts.
|It is often noticed in tubercular lymph nodes, arteries (leading to atherosclerosis), breast tissues, and in mitral and aortic valves in rheumatic fever.
|It is often noticed in the alveolar wall of the lungs, tendons, synovial membranes, pulmonary veins, cornea, conjunctiva, systemic arteries, interstitial tissue of gastric mucosa, kidneys, etc.
Often, dystrophic calcification is found incidentally. It may indicate an insignificant past cell injury. In some cases, it can result in organ dysfunction. Medicines can help relieve the pain and inflammation. In some cases, large masses are removed surgically.
If the body is not able to get rid of excess calcium, it tends to deposit it in the breasts, arteries of the heart, kidneys (like calcium deposit or in the form of kidney stones), and brain (cranial calcification). As metastatic calcification indicates hypercalcemia, the treatment involves finding and eradicating the underlying causes of elevated blood calcium levels. Each case of hypercalcemia does not result in metastatic calcification. Only a few cases eventually result in calcium deposition in various normal tissues. As the symptoms cannot be noticed easily, regular follow-ups play an important role in correct diagnosis and prompt treatment. The treatment may vary according to the type, location, severity, and causes of calcification, and the complications it may have given rise to.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.