Exactly why some people get pseudogout and others do not is unknown. Experts do know several factors can increase and decrease a person’s risk for the disease, which can occur when calcium pyrophosphate (CPP) crystals collect in the soft tissues of a joint.
Risk Factors for Pseudogout
The following risk factors are associated with higher rates of pseudogout, which may be called CPPD disease or acute CPP crystal inflammatory arthritis. Unlike gout, pseudogout is not influenced by diet,1 sex, or ethnicity.2
Most of these risk factors, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed. Underlying conditions that increase risk may be addressed with treatment.
Estimates vary regarding how many people have calcium pyrophosphate crystal deposition, but researchers know for certain that risk increases dramatically with age.
Most people who develop pseudogout are 60 or older. In fact, after age 60, the likelihood of developing pseudogout doubles with each decade of life.1 One often-cited study3 of 100 people admitted to a geriatric unit found signs of pseudogout in the joints of 44% of people aged 84 or older, though not all the people noticed symptoms.
A joint injury or surgery can trigger a pseudogout flare-up.4,5 Experts theorize this happens because trauma can cause joint cartilage to release the calcium phosphate crystals that have accumulated within it. Once released, the crystals activate an immune system response that leads to swelling and other pseudogout symptoms.6
Genetics plays a role, making some people more prone to accumulating calcium pyrophosphate crystals in their joints.
Recent research suggests that certain mutations in the ANKH gene, which helps regulate metabolism, increases the risk for developing pseudogout. People with these genetic mutations are:
- More likely to develop pseudogout at an earlier age7,8
- More likely to experience CPPD-related back pain and problems in the spine9
People who are diagnosed with gout are about 2.5 times more likely to develop pseudogout.4
Research suggests that CPP crystals are 2 to 3 times more common in patients who have osteoarthritis than those who do not.4,10 Some experts believe that people who have osteoarthritis with calcium pyrophosphate deposition may experience more swelling and inflammation than people who have osteoarthritis without crystals.11,12
Read more: What Is Osteoarthritis?
Experts estimate people with rheumatoid arthritis are 2 times as likely to get pseudogout.4
Read more: What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
There are several metabolic and endocrine disorders that can predispose a person to pseudogout (CPPD), including:
- Hemochromatosis,1,4 an inherited disorder that causes the body to store excess iron in the organs and tissues around the joints.
- Hyperparathyroidism,1 which can cause abnormal amounts of calcium in the blood, and perhaps other thyroid conditions that affect the body’s metabolism.
- Hypophosphatasia,1 a metabolic disorder that affects bones and teeth.
- Hypomagnesemia,1,4 a condition in which there is abnormally low magnesium levels in the blood.
Experts recommend that patients with pseudogout be screened for underlying conditions if they are younger than 60 and have no genetic risk of CPPD disease.1
Factors that Reduce Risk
Alcohol and tobacco abuse disorders, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and hypertension seem to lower the risk of developing CPPD disease, including pseudogout.4 While these conditions are associated with a lower risk of pseudogout and other forms of CPPD disease, their negative effects on health and well-being are significant and therefore not desirable.
Similarly, certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, thiazide diuretics, and loop diuretics have been associated with a lower risk of CPPD disease, including pseudogout.4 However, these medications carry potential side effects and are not recommended for lowering the risk of CPPD disease.