Pseudogout: Causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment

Pseudogout: Causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatmentYou may be wondering, what is pseudogout? Well, you probably have heard of gout, the painful condition that commonly affects the large toe. But pseudogout? While it does sound similar, there are some notable differences.

Before we outline the differences between gout and pseudogout, let’s further define pseudogout.


Pseudogout, similar to gout, is an arthritis disease where crystalline deposits form around joints. This formation of crystals can cause pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness of the joint. Unlike gout, which is caused by a build-up of purines, pseudogout is caused by calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate.

Episodes of pseudogout pain can be temporary or last for weeks. Unlike gout, which primarily affects small joints like those found in the big toe, pseudogout is commonly found in the knee.

Causes and risk factors of pseudogout

Pseudogout is caused by the presence of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate. The formation of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals can increase with age and it affects nearly half of those over the age of 85. However, many individuals who have these crystals never actually develop pseudogout. It is still unclear why symptoms show in some and not in others.

Risk factors of pseudogout include:

Pseudogout Symptoms

When it comes to symptoms, gout and pseudogout are quite similar. Both conditions cause pain, swelling, and warmth in the affected joint. Pseudogout can also cause redness or a purple color on the skin as well as severe tenderness.

Both men and women can develop pseudogout, but it is more common in women. Pseudogout is also more common in individuals over the age of 60 and in people with thyroid conditions, kidney failure, and in those who have conditions that affect calcium.

Pseudogout is also common in people with osteoarthritis, which can cause a misdiagnosis if both conditions are present at the same time.

How to diagnose pseudogout?

If there is a reason to suspect a diagnosis of pseudogout, your doctor will recommend the following tests:

  • Joint fluid analysis: Looking for calcium pyrophosphate crystals, a diagnostic criterion for pseudogout.
  • X-rays of the joint: Looking for calcifications (calcium build up) of the cartilage, joint damage, and deposits of calcium in the joint cavities.

Preventing Pseudogout

Preventing pseudogout is challenging. Many of the risk factors are fixed, such as age or genetic disorders. But there are other risk factors that can be adjusted to prevent pseudogout.

Just like maintaining overall good healthy, it is encouraged to enjoy a healthy diet, exercise, and frequent trips to the doctor to keep up to date on your health.
One study even outlined the benefits of consuming coffee and low-fat dairy products in moderation as a means of preventing pseudogout.

Pseudogout Treatment


Treatment for pseudogout can range from natural remedies to medical interventions. Treatment options for pseudogout include:

  • Ice the affected joint
  • Resting the joint
  • Keeping the joint elevated
  • Aspiration – a doctor inserts a needle and removes the synovial fluid which accumulated
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Oral steroid
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatory
  • Treating an existing underlying condition
  • Surgery

Pseudogout vs. Gout

We have mentioned some similarities and some differences between gout and pseudogout. Here we will further outline what the two have in common and also what makes them different.

Joint symptomsArthritic joint pain, swelling, redness, warmth, in some cases development of tophi, acute onset but chronic conditionArthritic joint pain, swelling, redness, warmth, extreme tenderness, acute onset but chronic condition
Commonly affected jointsBig toe, heels, knees, wrists and fingersFirst affects the knees but can move to wrists, ankles, shoulders and other joints
Length of symptomsFive to 12 days but chronic attacks can be longerFive to 12 days but chronic attacks can be longer
CauseAbundance of uric acidAbundance of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate
DiagnosisImaging tests, fluid drawn from swollen joint, blood testImaging tests, fluid drawn from swollen joint, blood test
TreatmentResting joint, icing, painkillers, target uric acid production or excretion, diet low in purinesResting, icing, painkillers, healthy diet but not strongly associated
PreventionDifficult to prevent, exercise, healthy diet, treating other medical problemsDifficult to prevent, exercise, healthy diet, treating other medical problems
OccurrenceCommon over the age of 60, common in men, common in those who are obese, in people with kidney problems or hypertensionCommon over the age of 60, women more common, can occur with other joint disorders

Related: Purine-rich foods: Foods to avoid to reduce the risk of gout

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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