Pseudogout is a form of arthritis that occurs in one or more of your joints. It most commonly affects the knee joints. The condition gets its name from its similarities to gout, though each condition is characterized by deposits of different crystals in the joints. While gout is caused by the deposition of uric acid crystals, pseudogout is caused by calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals. Like gout, pseudogout can cause severe, even debilitating pain and long-term joint damage.

Risk Factors for Pseudogout

Pseudogout, also known as calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD), is caused by the formation of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals in the synovial fluid of the joints. The cause of this overproduction of CPD is poorly understood. The condition may be caused by abnormal cells in the cartilage caused by previous illness, multiple joint injuries or past surgeries.

Other risk factors for developing pseudogout include:

  • Old age (the condition occurs most frequently in people over 60)
  • Being male (men develop gout and pseudogout more than women)
  • Genetic predisposition (having family members with the disease)
  • Mineral imbalances (lack of magnesium or excess iron may influence the development of CPPD)
  • Thyroid malfunction
  • Having osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

The majority of people with deposits of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals in their joints never develop symptoms of pseudogout. Just because you have these crystal deposits does not mean you have pseudogout or are at risk of joint damage.

Symptoms of Pseudogout

The symptoms of pseudogout are the same as other types of arthritis:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Severe tenderness at affected joint
  • Painful swelling in affected joint
  • Redness, warmth, general discomfort in affected joint

Sometimes (though not commonly) pseudogout affects multiple joints at once. Pseudogout pain is often less severe than pain associated with regular gout, but many individuals find it still interferes with their lives. Typically, untreated attacks of pseudogout last from a few days to a few weeks.

Complications of Pseudogout

Pseudogout can cause severe joint pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness. If left untreated, the condition can cause permanent joint damage. Additionally, many people with pseudogout develop painful bone spurs on their joints. Joints can become visually swollen and deformed, and may become permanently stiff.

Diagnosis of Pseudogout

Because of its similarities to other diseases like gout and rheumatoid arthritis, pseudogout is often misdiagnosed. As a result, a simple blood test is not enough to confirm the presence of CPPD. One key way to diagnose pseudogout is to remove a sample of fluid from around the affected joint. The sample is examined under a microscope for the presence of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals. A rheumatologist may also recommend x-rays to check for crystal deposits in or around the joints.

Pseudogout Treatment

Pseudogout can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be managed through a number of treatments.

Over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs may ease the pain of a pseudogout attack. Individuals who can’t take NSAIDs are often prescribed corticosteroids to reduce inflammation associated with pseudogout.

Prescription-strength medications like colchicine may also be recommended for frequent pseudogout flare ups.

For severe joint swelling, joint draining can help relieve pressure and fullness in an affected joint.

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