What is it?
Pseudogout refers to gout-like attacks, characterized by acute localized pain and swelling, that occur in patients with calcium crystal deposits in the joints. Chondrocalcinosis is the term used to describe the calcium-containing deposits that are found in cartilage and which are usually visible on joint x-rays.
What causes it?
Pseudogout is caused by deposits of calcium pyrophosphate crystals in joint tissues. In most cases, crystals form without a known specific reason. In some instances, a pattern of afflicted family members suggests a genetic disorder, possibly an enzyme deficiency. Disorders of the thyroid or parathyroid glands may also be associated.
Who gets it?
- Pseudogout afflicts about 3% of people in their 60s and increases with age to as high as 50% in people over 90.
- Acute attacks of pseudogout often occur in the knees and are incapacitating for days or weeks.
- Crystal deposits can contribute to a severe form of joint degeneration resulting in chronic disability.
How is it diagnosed?
Pseudogout is diagnosed by finding crystals in fluid removed by a needle from affected joints. X-ray findings of chondrocalcinosis are frequently seen in these patients. Ultrasonographic images may sometimes be characteristic. Other causes such as gout and infection must be ruled out.
How is it treated?
Oral anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid joint injections are successful in shortening the period of pain and dysfunction of acute episodes of pseudogout. Treatments to prevent attacks, such as colchicine, may be effective. Unfortunately, no treatment is available to dissolve the crystal deposits. Controlling inflammation helps to halt the progression of joint degeneration that often accompanies pseudogout.
For More Information
If you want more information on this or any other form of arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation web site at www.arthritis.org