What Is Chondrocalcinosis?

An X-ray showing osteoarthritis of the knee
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Chondrocalcinosis, also known as calcium pyrophosphate deposition (CPPD) disease, is a condition in which calcium pyrophosphate crystals build up in the joints. The deposits cause irritation that can cause inflammation and cartilage damage. The symptoms can be similar to gout and other types of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, half of people over 85 have chondrocalcinosis.

CPPD Symptoms

Not everyone who develops calcium crystals in their joints will have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they usually affect the knees but can also involve the shoulders, wrists, elbows, ankles, hands, or other joints.

You may experience episodes that arrive suddenly and last for days or weeks. CPPD is sometimes referred to as pseudogout because symptoms can sometimes be similar to gout. These symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the joint
  • Joint pain
  • Joint is warm to the touch
  • Fever
  • Stiffness

The crystal deposits can eventually cause joint damage and inflammation that can cause similar symptoms to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to joint pain, these symptoms include:

  • Knobby swelling at the joint, especially at the knees, wrists, shoulders, elbows, knuckles, and ankles
  • Decreased joint function
  • Low-grade inflammation
  • Morning stiffness and fatigue

Causes

Most of the time, there is no known cause for CPPD. Developing CPPD is more likely as you age, although it can occur in young people, too. CPPD does tend to run in families, so genetics are thought to play a role. Other possible causes include:

Diagnosis

To diagnose CPPD, your doctor may use a needle to take fluid from your painful joint to look for whether you have calcium pyrophosphate crystals. They may also use imaging like x-rays, CT, or MRI to help detect the presence of crystal deposits. To rule out any other conditions, blood tests may be performed.

Treatment

While treatment isn’t available to dissolve the crystal deposits, your doctor can suggest ways to relieve symptoms. For inflammation, swelling, and pain, your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Indocin (indomethacin) and Naprosyn (naproxen).

When a joint affected by CPPD becomes extremely painful and swollen, your doctor may drain some of the fluid that's built up by inserting a needle into the area. This will also remove some of the crystals from the joint. After that, a corticosteroid and a numbing medication can be injected into the joint to decrease inflammation and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe low doses of a prescription drug called colchicine that's used to treat gout.

For severe attacks or chronic inflammation, your doctor may prescribe medication such as Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine), Rheumatrex (methotrexate), or Kineret (anakinra). Surgery to replace damaged joints may also be an option in severe cases.

When caring for CPPD at home, you can try applying ice packs for short periods to help with reducing pain and inflammation in the joints. Maintaining a healthy weight can also minimize stress on the joints and reduce inflammation.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re experiencing joint pain or swelling, contact your doctor. Through tests and imaging, they can help determine if your pain is caused by CPPD. With medications and at-home care, you can usually manage symptoms and maintain joint function.

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  1. American College of Rheumatology. Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition (CPPD). Updated March 2017.

  2. Arthritis Foundation. Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition