For everything real, there is an imitation. Painful physical conditions are no exception. There is ‘real’ gout, caused when uric acid crystals infiltrate joints, then there’s pseudogout (aka false gout) that imitates real gout with joint infiltrating crystals of a different nature.
Pseudogout occurs when calcium pyrophosphate crystals infiltrate the joints and the soft tissue surrounding the joints, causing inflammation, pain and swelling. Very much like ‘real’ gout, these calcium pyrophosphate crystals produce intense attacks of pain to the afflicted joint. The joint afflicted with pseudogout will become red, stiff and swollen, the calcium pyrophosphate crystals will damage the joint cartilage. Ironically, some people who have pseudogout do not experience any pain or joint inflammation, yet the calcium pyrophosphate crystals are still damaging the joint cartilage just the same. Also, false gout and real gout can co-exist in the same joint.
Pseudogout usually waits until we get a little age on our joints to present it’s painful self, it’s a form of arthritis. The first afflicted joint is usually the knee. False gout will also attack the ankle, wrist, hand, elbow and shoulder joints. Real gout most often presents at the base of the big toe.
Attacks of false gout have the pain intensity and duration similar to real gout, with an attack lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. In between the pseudogout attacks, the afflicted joints will be pain free, unless osteoarthritis is present in the joint as well.
Dehydration in older adults is often the cause of pseudogout. The onset of the false gout symptoms often present when an older adult is ill or just had a surgical procedure done and is not drinking adequate amounts of fluid.
An x-ray of the afflicted joint or fluid removed from the joint and examined under a microscope will reveal the presence of calcium pyrophosphate crystals and enable a doctor to make the diagnosis of pseudogout.
Treatment for false gout is similar to treatments for real gout: Non-prescription, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like Aleve, Advil and Motrin, along with the application of ice packs and resting the joint may ease the pain and stop the pseudogout attack. Cortisone injected into the afflicted joint, or having the joint fluid containing the calcium pyrophosphate crystals removed will bring fast relief from the pain. For patients suffering from frequent attacks of pseudogout, oral gout medications may be prescribed for daily use to help prevent pseudogout attacks.