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Learning About Pseudogout

Inflamed knee joint with detail of calcium crystals and damaged cartilage in joint space

What is it?

Pseudogout is a type of arthritis. It causes pain, redness, heat, and swelling in the joints.

What causes it?

When you have pseudogout, tiny calcium crystals form in your joint, most often the knee. Over time, these crystals may damage the cartilage of the joint. As this happens, the bones rub together and cause joint pain.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include pain, redness, heat, and swelling in joints, usually the knee. Symptoms usually begin quickly. Pain and swelling can last days or weeks. For some people, these symptoms are an ongoing problem. Others may just have flare-ups now and then. Call your doctor if you get a fever or treatment isn't helping.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and past health. He or she will do a physical examination and blood tests. Your doctor may also take a sample of fluid from your joint to look for crystals. And you may have imaging tests, such as an X-ray, to look for joint damage.

How is it treated?

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and protect your joint. The type of treatment depends on how often you have symptoms and how bad they are.

For some people who have flare-ups now and then, over-the-counter medicines can help. To reduce pain and swelling, your doctor may remove some of the fluid from the joint. And he or she may also give injections into the joint. Resting the joint and using ice or cold packs on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time can also help.

Other people may need prescription medicines to treat their symptoms or to help keep symptoms from coming back. And people who have ongoing problems may need to take a daily medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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