Chondrocalcinosis is very common but only tends to cause symptoms when it is caused by an underlying condition, such as osteoarthritis.
What is chondrocalcinosis?
Chondrocalcinosis means the presence of calcium deposits in the cartilage of a joint. It was used to describe a condition called pseudogout (calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystal deposition disease, CPPD), but chondrocalcinosis is a more general term for calcium deposits and there are a number of other causes apart from pseudogout. For example, it may occur in severe osteoarthritis.
Chondrocalcinosis increases with age and has been reported to affect about 1 in 10 people.
See also the leaflet on Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition (Pseudogout). CPPD is similar to gout, which is caused by excessive levels of uric acid in the body.
Normally, chondrocalcinosis itself does not cause any discomfort or any problem with joint function, and is only diagnosed by an X-ray. The symptoms therefore depend on the underlying cause of chondrocalcinosis, such as:
- Joint pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
- In pseudogout, the affected joint (especially the wrist, knee or ankle) becomes swollen and stiff. A fever might develop.
- Symptoms associated with acute attacks of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint stiffness, swelling and pain, affecting joints on both sides of the body.
Causes of chondrocalcinosis
Injuries that deteriorate the joint cartilage, such as different types of arthritis or repetitive injury can lead to excess deposits of calcium crystals in the joint. Older people are more at risk.
Other causes can be a lack of body magnesium or excess calcium or iron. The disease can also be related to many other disorders, such as hyperparathyroidism, hypothyroidism, low magnesium (hypomagnesaemia), low phosphate (hypophosphatasia), Wilson's disease and haemochromatosis.
Chondrocalcinosis can be seen with an X-ray CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or nuclear medicine scan. Other investigations will be needed to find out the underlying cause of the chondrocalcinosis, such as blood tests or taking a sample of the synovial fluid from the affected joint (intra articularly) to look for any possible underlying cause of the chondrocalcinosis.
If the chondrocalcinosis is related to an underlying condition, the underlying condition must be treated first. Treatment will also be needed to manage symptoms associated with the underlying cause, such as treatment to reduce pain and stiffness of an affected joint with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Some measures to prevent joint wear and tear can help to reduce calcium deposits in the cartilage. Regular moderate exercise to increase muscle strength and maintaining a healthy weight can help.
Further reading and references
Zamora EA, Naik R; Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition Disease.
Karimzadeh H, Sirous M, Sadati SN, et al; Prevalence of Chondrocalcinosis in Patients above 50 Years and the Relationship with Osteoarthritis. Adv Biomed Res. 2017 Jul 316:98. doi: 10.4103/2277-9175.211835. eCollection 2017.
Moret CS, Iordache E, D'Ambrosi R, et al; Chondrocalcinosis does not affect functional outcome and prosthesis survival in patients after total or unicompartmental knee arthroplasty: a systematic review. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2022 Mar30(3):1039-1049. doi: 10.1007/s00167-021-06519-6. Epub 2021 Mar 6.
Abhishek A, Doherty S, Maciewicz R, et al; Chondrocalcinosis is common in the absence of knee involvement. Arthritis Res Ther. 2012 Oct 414(5):R205. doi: 10.1186/ar4043.