What Causes Calcium Build-Up on Bones?

Stored bones, teeth, blood and tissue, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and an essential component of normal physiological function (1, 2). Bone is living tissue made of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and a protein called collagen (1, 2, 3). About 99 percent of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth and one percent in the blood and tissues -- when calcium balance is thrown off because of injury or disease, calcium deposits can start to accumulate on bone and cause problems like abnormal bone formation (1, 2).

Bone Spurs

A bone spur is a smooth outgrowth of bone on top of normal bone tissue that usually occurs because of friction, pressure or stress (4). Some bone spurs form due to aging and can cause mobility problems in older individuals (4). Bone spurs can form in feet because of ligament tightness and are often seen in serious runners and professional dancers (4). Wearing shoes that don’t fit and being overweight are preventable risk factors for bone spurs and the pain that can follow (4). Treatment may include rest, ice, stretching, massage, weight loss and padded footwear if spurs become painful (4).

CPPD Disease

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Calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) deposition disease causes a build-up of calcium pyrophosphate in the cartilage that covers the bones in joints (5). CPPD disease usually affects people over 60 but can affect younger individuals if they have had recent joint surgery, injury or a family history of the disease (5). Symptoms may not show up for a long time and can include pain, swelling, redness or heat in the affected area from inflammation (5). Hemochromatosis, hyperparathyroidism, hypothyroidism and hypomagnesemia conditions can be precursors to CPPD disease if they are severe or untreated (5). CPPD disease is usually treated with exercise, medication, surgery or joint aspiration (5). Adequate dietary calcium from food sources need not be avoided (5).

Forestier's Disease

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis -- Forestier’s disease -- is characterized by excessive bone growth, conversion of spinal ligaments into bone, tendinitis and painful bone spurs in heels and ankles (6). Spinal stiffness, impaired neck and back mobility and spinal nerve compression are typical signs of this disease (6). Causes may include long-term sports involvement, injury, connective tissue diseases, diabetes and being over the age of 50 (6). According to The National Organization for Rare Disorders, about 19 percent of men and four percent of women over 50 are affected with this condition (6). Treatment usually includes anti-inflammatory drugs and rarely warrants surgery. (6).

Paget's Disease

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Normally, the rate at which bones rebuild slows with age -- for those with a rare condition called Paget’s disease, the speed and blueprint look a little bit different (7). Bone structure is rebuilt in a rapid and abnormal manner, causing bones to be soft in some places and enlarged in others (7). Bony protrusions and enlargements may be mistaken for other diseases that cause calcium deposits to collect on top of bone (7). Those with Paget’s disease are at high risk for fracture, broken bones, arthritis, hearing loss and calcium deposits in blood vessels and kidneys (7).