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Nephrocalcinosis occurs when calcium builds up in the kidneys, the organs responsible for separating the body’s liquid waste substances from the blood before converting them into urine. Calcium is a natural substance that aids in muscle movement, blood clotting, and comprises bones and teeth, but too much can limit proper body function. The condition is similar to kidney stones, which are small crystallized substances that build up in the kidneys as a result of dehydration. Nephrocalcinosis tends to be most common in babies who are born prematurely, but can occur in anyone with conditions that affect the kidneys.
Minor cases of nephrocalcinosis do not generally have any symptoms. As the condition progresses and the calcium masses multiply or enlarge, it may result in blood being expelled during urination, as well as vomiting or a high fever. Chronic aching near the abdomen, thighs, back, or sides is another common symptom.
Underlying medical conditions that alter the blood or urine’s amounts of calcium are the cause of most cases of nephrocalcinosis. Hypocalcaemia is a condition in which blood or kidneys are prone to contain excess calcium. Another possible underlying cause is glomerulonephritis, a disorder that impairs the filtering system of kidneys. Tuberculosis, an organ infection caused by bacteria, can also contribute to excessive calcium.
Nephrocalcinosis that is already in the kidneys cannot be eradicated, but treatment can be implemented to prevent calcium amounts from increasing further. Medications may be prescribed to deal with any preexisting medical conditions that cause the calcium buildup. In serious cases, a person may need to be put on dialysis, a system that uses chemicals to manually get rid of waste from the kidneys since the organs cannot do it themselves.
If calcium deposits keep building up or if the condition is not treated before the deposits become extensive, it can have severe or potentially fatal health complications. One possible complication is obstructive uropathy, in which the passage that transfers urine from the kidneys to the bladder becomes narrowed or clogged. Since urine cannot go to the bladder, it remains in the kidneys and causes them to become overfilled and enlarged, which can result in irreversible damage to the kidneys. Untreated cases of the condition can also cause renal failure, a possibly life-threatening condition which keeps the kidneys from being able to remove any waste from the body.