Similar to and deriving its name from gout, pseudogout is a joint disease caused by inflammation from an accumulation of crystals in the synovial fluid around the joint.
The difference is in the makeup of the crystals; in pseudogout, the crystals are made up of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD), and in gout, the crystals are made up of uric acid. In both, however, the crystals can lead to attacks of painful joints and swelling in the knees, wrists, ankles and other joints (gout typically affects the big toe).
Medical professionals are not sure why crystals form in joints, although in some cases it may be caused by an inherited disorder causing your body to store excess iron in your organs and around your joints. Symptoms of pseudogout can begin suddenly, with acute pain that may come and go in a day, or go on for weeks. Attacks may not recur for some time, although typically when someone has had one attack, they will eventually get another.
Some questions you may want to ask your doctor about pseudogout might be:
- Who gets pseudogout? Commonly, an older person will suddenly get pseudogout in one joint. Younger patients suffering from a different illness (thyroid disease, etc.) may develop pseudogout.
- How is pseudogout tested for and diagnosed? Your doctor may perform a synovial fluid analysis to check for crystals, and joint x-rays will show joint damage, calcification of cartilage, and calcium deposits in joint spaces. Pseudogout can be misdiagnosed as goudy arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis.
- How is pseudogout treated? Regardless of possible misdiagnoses, many forms of arthritis are treated similarly (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid drugs), so early diagnoses confusion poses no danger in treatment. Many people treated for pseudogout can control their symptoms and live productive lives. Your doctor may also suggest aspirating (removing) fluid from joints to relieve pressure.
- What is the long-term risk? If pseudogout is not treated, it could cause damage to joints, and eventually cause cysts, bone spurs, and cartilage loss. Extensive damage can lead to bone breaks.
- What information should I share with my doctor if I suspect pesudogout? It is important to keep track of symptoms, medications and supplements, what seems to help or worsen your condition, personal and family medical history, and share it with your doctor.
- Can pseudogout be prevented? There is no known preventative for pesudogout, but it is possible to reduce further damage to joints with treatment.
- What can I do at home to help my condition? Resting the affected joint, applying heat, and taking over-the-counter medications often help a pseudogout flare-up. When not experiencing an attack, it also good to exercise regularly to strengthen muscles around the affected joints and keep joints mobile. Your doctor can help you develop a safe exercise program.
- Is there any research I can do on my own and what sources would you recommend? Your doctor can suggest their favorite websites and/or support groups for obtaining more information and helping you cope with pseudogout.
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Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.