Pseudogout (SOO-doe-gout) is a form of arthritis characterized by sudden, painful swelling in one or more of your joints. These episodes can last for days or weeks. Pseudogout typically occurs in older adults and most commonly affects the knee.
Also called calcium pyrophosphate deposition (CPPD) disease, pseudogout gets its common name from its similarity to gout. Pseudogout and gout both occur when crystals — one type in gout, another type in pseudogout — form in the fluid that lubricates joint linings, causing pain and inflammation. Besides affecting the knees, pseudogout may develop in the ankles, wrists and elbows, while gout tends to affect the big toe.
It isn't clear why crystals form in your joints and cause pseudogout. Although you can't get rid of the crystals, there are treatments to help you relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation of pseudogout.
Pseudogout most commonly affects the knees. Other joints that may be involved include the ankles, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.
If you have pseudogout, you might experience:
Some people experience recurring pseudogout attacks.
When to see a doctor
Pseudogout occurs when calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystals migrate from the cartilage in and around your joints to the lining of your joint (synovium), causing inflammation.
Although it isn't clear why CPPD crystals form, they appear to be associated with the aging process. However, many older people have CPPD crystals in their joints, but most don't experience signs and symptoms of pseudogout. Symptoms may be more likely to develop when CPPD crystals form and you have:
Pseudogout is actually just one feature of calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease. This condition can cause calcification of joint cartilage (chondrocalcinosis) and joint degeneration as well as pseudogout, though you won't necessarily experience all of these manifestations.
Several factors are known to increase your risk of developing CPPD crystals that can increase your risk of pseudogout, including:
The CPPD crystal deposits that cause pseudogout can also lead to joint damage. Bones in the affected joint or joints can develop cysts, bone spurs and cartilage loss. Further damage can lead to fractures.
Joint damage associated with CPPD crystals sometimes mimics the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms that are common to pseudogout. After an initial examination, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory joint conditions (rheumatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Questions to ask the doctor at the initial appointment include:
Questions to ask if you are referred to a rheumatologist include:
If any additional questions occur to you during your medical appointments, don't hesitate to ask.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Pseudogout signs and symptoms mimic those of gout, so your doctor may first suspect gout. Tests can rule out gout as a cause of your signs and symptoms.
To determine whether pseudogout is causing your pain, your doctor may have you undergo these tests:
Your doctor may want to rule out other causes of joint pain and inflammation, such as infection, gout, injury and rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatments and drugs
Pseudogout treatment aims to reduce your pain and swelling. No treatments can rid your joints of the CPPD crystals that lead to pseudogout.
Treatments to relieve the pain and inflammation of pseudogout include:
If your pseudogout is caused by joint trauma or a disease, such as hemochromatosis, your doctor also will treat the underlying condition.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Home treatment measures that commonly help with joint pain may ease the symptoms of pseudogout. During flare-ups, you may find relief by:
Regular exercise, especially activities that strengthen the muscles around your affected joints, may help you keep those joints mobile. Ask your doctor to recommend a safe and effective exercise program for you.
If you experience repeated pseudogout attacks, you and your doctor may consider medication that may prevent attacks from occurring. Low doses of colchicine, a drug commonly used to prevent and treat gout, may reduce the number of pseudogout attacks you experience. Side effects, such as stomach problems, can occur in people taking colchicine. Discuss the benefits and risks of colchicine with your doctor.
Last Updated: 2010-04-02
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