What Is Basal Ganglia Calcification?

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on July 06, 2023
2 min read

Basal ganglia calcification is a very rare condition that happens when calcium builds up in your brain, usually in the basal ganglia, the part of your brain that helps control movement. Other parts of your brain can be affected as well.

You're most likely to get basal ganglia calcification between the ages of 30 and 60, though it can happen at any time. Most people who develop it are in good health before they find out they have it. 

It should not be confused with familial idiopathic basal ganglia calcification or primary familial brain calcification, also called Fahr’s disease or Fahr’s syndrome. As the name suggests, this form of basal ganglia calcification is inherited, but it is also rare and more serious. It is a progressive disease with no known cure.

Calcification can occur in many parts of the brain and is most commonly benign with no symptoms and not associated with Fahr's disease.

Basal ganglia calcification sometimes happens when you age. 

Calcium build-up in your basal ganglia can also happen because of infection, problems with your parathyroid gland, and for other reasons. 

In most cases, you may have no symptoms at all. But if you do, there are usually two types: either movement-related or psychiatric. The exact symptoms depend on which part of your brain is affected.

Movement symptoms:

  • Clumsiness
  • Walking unsteadily
  • Talking more slowly than usual, or slurring your words
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Involuntary movement of arms or legs
  • Cramped muscles
  • Stiff arms and legs (called spasticity)
  • Tremors, muscle stiffness, lack of facial expression

Psychiatric symptoms:

  • Poor concentration
  • Lapses in memory
  • Mood changes
  • Psychosis, or being out of touch with reality
  • Dementia

Other symptoms:

Your doctors usually start with symptoms and family history.

A CT scan, which combines many X-rays to make detailed pictures of parts of your body, is the most common imaging test used to detect it. But if there is calcification, they can’t always tell if it's because of the condition or something else. 

Imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays might also show if there’s any calcium build-up in your brain.

Your doctor might do special urine and blood tests to help rule out other problems.

Testing of your genes is also possible if other things point to the illness.

There is no cure, but there is treatment for the symptoms. For example, if you are anxious or depressed, see your doctor. There are medicines to help with mood issues.

If you have seizures, certain anti-epileptic medicines can help. Or if you have migraines, you can take medicine to both prevent and treat them.

If you have this condition, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or specialist every year to see if it’s changed or advanced.