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Calcinosis Cutis

  • Author: Julia R Nunley, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 08, 2016


Calcinosis cutis is a term used to describe a group of disorders in which calcium deposits form in the skin. Virchow initially described calcinosis cutis in 1855. Calcinosis cutis is classified into 4 major types according to etiology: dystrophic, metastatic, iatrogenic, and idiopathic. A few rare types have been variably classified as dystrophic or idiopathic. These include calcinosis cutis circumscripta, calcinosis cutis universalis, tumoral calcinosis, and transplant-associated calcinosis cutis.[1]



In all cases of calcinosis cutis, insoluble compounds of calcium are deposited within the skin due to local and/or systemic factors. These calcium salts consist primarily of hydroxyapatite crystals or amorphous calcium phosphate. The pathogenesis of calcinosis cutis is not completely understood and a variety of factors allow for different clinical scenarios to occur.

Metabolic and physical factors are pivotal in the development of most cases of calcinosis. Ectopic calcification can occur in the setting of hypercalcemia and/or hyperphosphatemia when the calcium-phosphate product exceeds 70 mg2/dL2, without preceding tissue damage. These elevated extracellular levels may result in increased intracellular levels, calcium-phosphate nucleation, and crystalline precipitation. Alternatively, damaged tissue may allow an influx of calcium ions leading to an elevated intracellular calcium level and subsequent crystalline precipitation. Tissue damage also may result in denatured proteins that preferentially bind phosphate. Calcium then reacts with bound phosphate ions leading to precipitation of calcium phosphate.




Dystrophic calcinosis cutis is most common. Specific incidence and frequency data are unavailable.


Tumoral calcinosis is more common in blacks of South African heritage.


No sex predilection is documented.


Subepidermal calcified nodules are more common in children. Calcinosis cutis circumscripta tends to arise in the second half of life. Calcinosis cutis universalis occurs in the second decade of life. Tumoral calcinosis usually arises in the first or second decade of life.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Julia R Nunley, MD Professor, Program Director, Dermatology Residency, Department of Dermatology, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center

Julia R Nunley, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Nephrology, International Society of Nephrology, Medical Dermatology Society, Medical Society of Virginia, National Kidney Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, Women's Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: American Board of Dermatology<br/>Co-Editor for the text Dermatological Manifestations of Kidney Disease .

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD Herman Beerman Professor of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Director, Penn Cutaneous Pathology Services, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Health System

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, American Society of Dermatopathology, Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Received royalty from Lippincott Williams Wilkins for textbook editor.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

James W Patterson, MD Professor of Pathology and Dermatology, Director of Dermatopathology, University of Virginia Medical Center

James W Patterson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Dermatopathology, Royal Society of Medicine, Society for Investigative Dermatology, United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Lydia M E Jones, MD Staff Physician, Department of Dermatology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Calcinosis cutis appearing as an indurated and nodular subcutaneous plaque in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus.
Ulceration of a lesion of calcinosis cutis in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus.
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