Pseudogout

What is pseudogout?

Pseudogout is a kind of arthritis that causes pain and swelling, usually in large joints. The joints most commonly affected are the elbows, wrists, ankles, and knees. In severe cases, the disease may damage your joints.

What is the cause?

Pseudogout is caused by the buildup of calcium crystals in the joints. Why this happens is not always known. The risk for pseudogout increases as you get older, and if you have a medical condition, such as:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Hemochromatosis (having too much iron in your body)
  • Wilson’s disease (having too much copper in your body)

Pseudogout is similar to a condition called gout. Gout also causes joint pain and swelling, but is caused by a buildup of uric acid instead of calcium crystals. The treatment of pseudogout is different from gout.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling of joints.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and symptoms and examine you. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Joint aspiration, which uses a needle to take fluid from a joint to check for infection or crystals, such as calcium or uric acid, that might cause arthritis. Removing fluid can also help relieve some of the pain and swelling of pseudogout.
  • X-rays

How is it treated?

Treating a sudden attack of pseudogout mainly involves relieving the pain by:

  • Limiting movement of the painful joint
  • Removing excess fluid from the joint
  • Taking medicine to relieve pain and swelling

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs used to treat pain and swelling. NSAIDs may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are NSAIDs that you may buy with or without a prescription. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is a prescription NSAID.

If you cannot take NSAIDs, your provider can prescribe other medicine to reduce the inflammation.

In some cases, you may need steroid medicines such as prednisone to reduce pain and swelling. These medicines are either taken by mouth or given as a shot into the painful joint. Using a steroid for a long time can have serious side effects. Take steroid medicine exactly as your healthcare provider prescribes. Don’t take more or less of it than prescribed by your provider and don’t take it longer than prescribed. Don’t stop taking a steroid without your provider’s approval. You may have to lower your dosage slowly before stopping it.

A single attack of pseudogout rarely lasts longer than 1 or 2 weeks. You may have more than one attack.

How can I help take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Take all medicines as directed. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

A healthy lifestyle may also help:

  • If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink.
  • Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you. Talk with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program.
  • Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight. Losing some weight can reduce the stress on your joints.
  • Use a warm washcloth or heating pad on low heat directly on the joint to see if this helps decrease the pain. You can also try an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15 to 20 minutes on the joint. You may want to switch between heat and ice to see if it works better for you than either one alone.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-01
Last reviewed: 2014-04-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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