Calcification happens when calcium builds up in body tissue, blood vessels, or organs. This buildup can harden and disrupt your body’s natural processes.

The bloodstream is carrying calcium. It is also found in every cell. Inflammation can occur in almost any part of the body.

According to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), about 99 percent of your body’s calcium is in your teeth and bones. The other 1 percent is in the blood, muscles, fluid outside the cells, and other body tissues.

“Calcium is deposited where it doesn’t typically belong. This can add up and cause problems over time. If you have extra calcium, you may need treatment.”

Calcifications can be found in many places throughout your body.

  • Small and large arteries.
  • The valves for the heart.
  • brain, where it’s known as cranial calcification
  • There are knee joints and rotator cuff tendons.
  • soft tissues like breasts, muscles, and fat
  • kidney, bladder, and gallbladder

There is some calcium build up. The body is believed to respond to inflammation, injury, or certain biological processes with these deposits. Some calcifications can affect the function of the organs.

According to the Division of Cardiology at UCLA School of Medicine, most adults older than 60 have calcium deposits in their blood vessels.

There are many factors that play a role in calcification.

  • infections
  • calcium metabolism disorders that cause hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood)
  • genetic or autoimmune disorders affecting the skeletal system and connective tissues
  • There is persistent inflammation.

According to Harvard University, a common misconception is that calcifications are caused by a calcium-rich diet. But researchers haven’t found a link between dietary calcium and a higher risk for calcium deposits.

This is also true for kidney stones. Most kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate. People who get calcium oxalate stones release more calcium in their urine than those who don’t. This disparity happens no matter how much calcium people have in their diets.

Calcifications are usually found via X-rays. X-ray tests use electromagnetic radiation to take pictures of your internal organs and usually cause no discomfort. Your doctor will likely detect any calcification issues right away with X-rays.

Your doctor may order blood tests. If you have stones in your kidneys, these tests can determine your function.

There are calcium deposits in cancer. Calcification is usually used to rule out cancer as a cause.

A doctor will order a biopsy (often through a fine needle) to collect a tissue sample. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing. If no cancer cells are detected, your doctor will label the calcification as benign.

Breast calcifications occur when calcium builds up in the breast tissue. There are two main types of breast calcifications.

According to the National Cancer Institute, macrocalcifications in the breasts are most common in women over 50 years old. Men can get breast calcifications, too, but it’s not as common.

Breast calcifications happen for several reasons. Breast injuries, cell secretions, infections, and inflammation can cause breast calcifications. You might also get calcifications if you’ve had breast cancer or radiation therapy for cancer.

Most breast calcifications are benign. This is true for macro calculations.

Some microcalcification patterns may be signs of early breast cancer.

Breast calcifications are too small to be found during a regular breast exam. Your doctor usually spots these deposits during a mammogram of your breast tissue. Your doctor may ask you to schedule a follow-up appointment if any calcifications need to be checked again.

A doctor may perform a biopsy to check for suspicious looking calcifications. Your doctor may suggest minor surgery to remove the calcifications.

If breast calcifications are present, getting regular mammograms at an appropriate age can help track them. The earlier breast changes of concern are discovered, the more likely you will have a positive outcome.

Calcification treatment depends on a number of factors.

  • Where do the calcium deposits come from?
  • What is the underlying cause?
  • What if there are any problems?

Once the calcifications have been found, your doctor will need to make regular follow-up appointments. Minor artery calcifications are not considered dangerous.

“Congenital heart valves can also be found. If the calcium build up is severe enough to affect the valve’s function, you may need to have it open or replaced.”

Kidney stone treatments help break down calcium buildup in the kidneys. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic called thiazide to help prevent future calcium kidney stones. This diuretic signals the kidneys to release urine while holding on to more calcium.

Calcium deposits in your joints and tendons don’t always cause painful symptoms, but they can affect your range of motion and cause discomfort. Treatments may include taking anti-inflammatory medicines and applying ice packs. If the pain doesn’t go away, your doctor may recommend surgery.

If you are over 65 years old, you should see a doctor for blood tests to check your calcium levels.

If you were born with a heart defect or a related issue, you can be more likely to have a calcification than other people. If you know of any of these conditions, you should ask your doctor to have them tested for them.

Some medications can affect your body. Cholesterol, blood pressure, and hormone replacement therapy are some of the drugs that affect calcium use.

If you are taking any of these medications or have related treatments, you should talk to your doctor to understand the effects of these treatments on your calcium levels.

If you frequently take calcium carbonate supplements (such as Tums), you risk raising your calcium to high levels. Problems with the kidney or the parathyroid (four small glands on the back of the thyroid) can also cause calcium levels in your blood to rise too high.

The amount of calcium you need depends on your age. Talk to your doctor about your health issues and what dose of calcium is right for you.

Smoking increases the risk of heart and major arteries being damaged. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, and these calcifications may play a role.

Overall, quitting smoking has both short- and long-term benefits, especially for your heart, blood vessels, and brain.

There is no proven way to prevent calcifications. Smoking cessation and diet changes may affect the formation of calcifications.

Kidney stones may form less often with certain dietary changes. Talk with a doctor about ways to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle.

Calcifications don’t cause symptoms on their own. They’re often detected when X-rays are being done for other reasons. Talk with a doctor if you have any underlying health problems. For example, you may be susceptible to calcifications if you have heart disease, kidney disease, or if you smoke.

Your outlook depends on the location and severity of the calcifications. Hardened calcium deposits can interrupt vital processes in the brain and heart. Calcifications in your blood vessels can lead to coronary heart disease.

You and your doctor can discuss ways to manage health issues that could put you at risk for calcifications.

Calcification is the build up of calcium in the body. Soft tissues, arteries, and other areas can be affected by the build up.

“Some calcifications don’t cause pain, while others can lead to serious problems. Treatment depends on the location and severity of the deposits.”