Pseudogout may be one of the most misunderstood forms of arthritis, often mistaken for gout or other conditions. Proper diagnosis is important, though because untreated pseudogout may lead to a severe form of joint degeneration and on-going inflammation, resulting in chronic disability. Some treatment options do exist, but are less targeted than those for gout.
Pseudogout is a type of arthritis that, as the name implies, can cause symptoms similar to gout, but in reaction to a different type of crystal deposit. Pseudogout, sometimes referred to as calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease, can cause severe episodes of localized pain and swelling resulting in incapacitation for days or weeks. It can also cause more chronic arthritis that mimics osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Knees most often are involved, but wrists, shoulders, ankles, elbows or hands can be affected.
Pseudogout develops when deposets of calcium pyrophosphate crystals accumulate in a joint. Crystals deposit first in the cartilage and can damage the cartilage.The crystals also can cause a reaction with inflammation that leads to joint pain and swelling. In most cases it is not known why the crystals form, although crystal deposits clearly increase with age. Because the conditions sometimes runs in families, genetic factors are suspected of contributing to the disorder, as can a severely under active thyroid (hypothyroidism) excess iron storage (hemochromatosis), low magnesium levels in the blood, an overactive parathyroid gland, and other causes of excessive calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia).
The calcium crystal deposits in pseudogout affect about 3 percent of the people in their 60s and as many as 50 percent of people in their 90s. Any kind of insult to the joint can trigger the release of the calcium crystals, including a painful inflammatory response. Attacks of the pseudogout also can develop following joint surgery or other surgery. However, not everyone will experience severe attacks.
It is not known how to prevent pseudogout. If the condition has developed because of some other medical conditions, such as hemochromatosis (too much iron stored in the body), or parathyroid problems, treatment of that condition may prevent progression of other features of that potentially dangerous illness and may, in some cases, slow the development of pseudogout.