Chondrocalcinosis is a type of arthritis that typically affects the knees and causes flare-ups of pain and inflammation. While these flare-ups may be brief, the condition can cause permanent joint damage over time.

Chondrocalcinosis is a painful type of arthritis that causes calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposits in the joint tissues. It can lead to inflammatory attacks and cartilage damage.

Additional names for the condition are pseudogout and calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD).

This article will cover chondrocalcinosis symptoms, causes, and treatment. It will also explain the process of diagnosis and the overall outlook.

A close up of a person's knee that is affected by chondrocalcinosis.Share on Pinterest
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Chondrocalcinosis occurs due to inflammation from calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposits in the joints and surrounding tissues.

It typically affects the knees. However, it can affect multiple joints at the same time, such as the wrists, shoulders, ankles, elbows, and hands.

An inflammatory flare-up may occur suddenly and may last days or weeks. The pain and swelling can be severe and cause limitations in daily activities.

In some cases, calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposits occur without causing symptoms.

Chondrocalcinosis symptoms include:

People may not have any symptoms between episodes. However, over time, the crystal deposits can lead to chronic inflammation and joint damage, which can cause symptoms similar to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Possible symptoms of joint damage may include:

  • joint pain and stiffness
  • low grade inflammation
  • swollen “knobby” joints
  • limited range of motion
  • morning joint stiffness and fatigue

Most of the time, the exact causes of chondrocalcinosis are unclear. However, since the condition often runs in families, genetics may play a role.

While it is more likely to occur in older people, young people can also have the condition. People who develop pseudogout are typically ages 65 years and over. If a younger person develops pseudogout, it can indicate underlying metabolic disease.

According to 2020 case studies, metabolic diseases such as hyperparathyroidism, hemochromatosis, and hypomagnesemia may be contributing factors for people under the age of 45 years who develop chondrocalcinosis.

Often, calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposits occur in people with joint infections, osteoarthritis, and other types of arthritis, such as gout. An acute chondrocalcinosis attack may develop after a joint injury or surgery.

Additional factors that may lead to this condition include:

  • hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption)
  • hypomagnesemia (low blood magnesium level)
  • hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid glands)
  • severe hypothyroidism
  • hypercalcemia
  • hypophosphatemia (low blood phosphorus level)
  • hemophilia

Chondrocalcinosis may be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. To diagnose the condition, a healthcare professional will ask about symptoms and order medical tests.

One such test is synovial fluid analysis. For this procedure, a medical professional draws a sample of fluid from the affected joint and examines it under a microscope to look for calcium pyrophosphate crystals and uric acid crystals, which indicate gout. This test can also help identify or rule out infection.

A healthcare professional may also perform blood tests to rule out other conditions.

To identify calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposits and other causes of pain, a healthcare professional may use imaging tests, such as:

How does it appear in different imaging tests?

Chondrocalcinosis in a joint may appear on an X-ray as white, fluffy crystal deposits within the soft tissue. Calcification in the soft tissues surrounding the joints may also appear.

While there is no cure for chondrocalcinosis, it is vital to treat and manage symptoms.

Without treatment, chondrocalcinosis can cause chronic and severe pain and inflammation. Over time, disability may occur due to joint degeneration.

It is not possible to dissolve or get rid of the crystals. However, treatments can alleviate symptoms, improve joint function, and help prevent the condition from worsening. They can also treat the underlying causes.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as indomethacin (Indocin) and naproxen (Naprosyn) may reduce the frequency of acute attacks and relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Some people cannot take NSAIDs, including those who take blood thinners and have kidney concerns or stomach ulcers. Older adults (ages 65 years and older) may be more likely to experience side effects from anti-inflammatory medications. A rheumatologist can recommend an alternative medication for their condition.

Medications to relieve chronic inflammation and severe attacks include:

For severe pain and swelling, a healthcare professional may use a needle to remove excess synovial fluid. They then inject a corticosteroid and numbing medication to reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief.

Severe cases may require surgery to repair and replace damaged joints.

Self-care methods to treat the condition include:

  • resting the joints as much as possible
  • using a compression wrap to reduce swelling
  • using ice therapy to alleviate pain and inflammation
  • reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight to reduce inflammation
  • exercising and following a balanced, nutritious diet

Since the exact causes of chondrocalcinosis are not known, it is not clear how to help prevent the onset of chondrocalcinosis.

Treating underlying conditions, taking medications such as colchicine, and following a low purine diet may help prevent future attacks. However, a person should talk with a doctor before starting this type of diet.

While there is currently no treatment to eliminate calcium pyrophosphate crystals, it is possible to manage symptoms, reduce discomfort, and help prevent future inflammatory episodes.

It is important to receive a diagnosis and follow a treatment plan to help prevent damage and retain joint function. Treatment approaches include medications, home remedies, and lifestyle changes.

Chondrocalcinosis and pseudogout both refer to CPPD. People use the three terms interchangeably, though CPPD is the formal term.

Chondrocalcinosis refers to the calcification of joint cartilage. Pseudogout is the former term for acute calcium pyrophosphate deposition arthritis, which involves sudden attacks of synovitis that are similar to gout.

Chondrocalcinosis is a form of arthritis that occurs due to a buildup of calcium pyrophosphate crystals in the joints.

These deposits can cause sudden episodes of intense pain and inflammation that can persist for days or weeks. The condition can lead to chronic discomfort and damage, so it is important to treat it early.

Researchers are learning more about possible prevention and treatment strategies for chondrocalcinosis and its links with other conditions. There is no specific cause of chondrocalcinosis, though it is more prevalent among older adults and may be hereditary.

If a person has symptoms such as joint pain and inflammation, they should visit a healthcare professional to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.