Pseudogout can cause painful inflammation in your joints due to the accumulation of small calcium crystals. These crystals form in the fluid that lubricates your joints, called synovial fluid, and in the cartilage.
Also called calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD), this form of arthritis tends to affect the knees more than other joints, but it can also be found in your wrists, elbows and ankles.
There may be a genetic link for pseudogout; if you have family members with the condition, you’re more likely to have it yourself. Other causes include too much calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), too much iron, deficiency of magnesium, underactive thyroid or overactive parathyroid gland.
If you have pseudogout, you’ll primarily experience joint pain in your knees, ankles, elbows and wrists. The fluid builds up around the joint and you may notice swelling. The condition can become chronic if not treated.
Pseudogout can sometimes have identical symptoms to other forms of arthritis. Your doctor can order tests to determine if pseudogout is the culprit. These tests may include analysis of the joint fluid for calcium pyrophosphate crystals and X-rays to check for signs of calcium buildup around the joints.
One of the primary treatments for pseudogout is over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are available by prescription may be needed to treat more severe cases. Corticosteroids may be used on a temporary basis to help reduce inflammation, but the side effects prevent regular use.
Your doctor can also drain the synovial fluid in the joints, which usually alleviates some symptoms. There are no proven methods for removing the crystals that form around the joint, however. In a few cases, complete joint replacement can help sufferers.