You may have heard of gout before, but you may not know what it is or what it does. There are actually two different forms that we need to discuss: gout and pseudogout (calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease). Essentially, when one of these diseases sets in, salt crystals will settle and form around joints in the hands or feet. As the crystals build up, they begin to cause irritation in the joints themselves as well as in tendons and other tissues in the area. Both forms of the disease will cause these buildups in the joints, but the actual material is different.
- With gout, the buildup around the joints will be monosodium urate.
- With pseudogout, the buildup around the joints will be calcium pyrophosphate.
This most commonly effects the joints in the hand as well as the big toe, the knee, and the wrist. Often, when people have one gout attack, they will have recurring attacks in the months and years to come.
What Causes Gout and Pseudogout?
Gout is caused when your body is producing too much uric acid, or alternatively, it is not excreting enough uric acid. This can happen due to medical conditions like hypothyroidism, heart disease, and kidney disease. Additionally, medications used for transplant patients, blood pressure medicines, blood thinners, and other can cause this change in the body.
Additionally, some people have developed gout after they have had surgery on a joint, there was an injury to the area, or there was an infection. Drinking alcohol has shown to cause flare ups.
Pseudogout or CPPD is usually caused when a patient has more than one injury to the same joint. It isnt connected with diet, medication, or other health problems. However, there does seem to be some correlation between people who have pneumonia, heart disease or stroke. Patients who have thyroid problems and develop an iron overload have developed CPPD as well.
Symptoms of gout and pseudogout include:
- Severe pain in the joint that will become extremely painful between four and 12 hours after it starts.
- Discomfort that continues weeks after the pain subsides.
- Redness, swelling, and inflammation in the affected joint.
- Inability to use the joint properly, decreasing mobility.
A doctor will use examinations, x-rays and lab work to determine if you have gout or pseudogout.
Treatment for these diseases isnt designed to cure gout, but instead to decrease the inflammation in the joint and ease pain. Certain NSAID pain relievers have shown to be very effective in taking away pain. If the inflammation is bad enough, then the doctor may prefer a steroid injection. If the flare-ups cause enough problems, then surgery may be needed to remove the crystals from the joint.
If gout is left untreated, then it can permanently damage joints as the crystals can erode away at the bones and tissues. It is very important that you get treatment, so if you believe that you have gout in your hand, wrist, fingers, or any joint, be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.