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Crystal-induced arthritis: An overview

  • H. Ralph Schumacher Jr.
    Correspondence
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to H. Ralph Schumacher, Jr., MD, Division of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, 3rd floor, Suite G, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
    Affiliations
    From the Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
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      The most common crystal-related arthropa-Thies—gout, calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate disease or “pseudogout,” and calcific periarthritis/tendinitis—may be appropriately diagnosed and managed by the primary care physician. Definitive diagnosis via synovial tap is recommended, as the clinical picture may not identify some cases. The acute pain and swelling of attacks, regardless of etiology, generally respond to treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and local or occasionally systemic corticosteroids. Once a causative crystal has been identified and a diagnosis established, a plan for long-term management and prevention of recurrences may be devised. Thus, uric-acid-lowering therapy may be indicated in a patient who has experienced recurrent attacks of gout, whereas control of serum phosphate levels might be effective in some individuals with hyperphosphatemia and hydroxyapatite-associated periarthritis or arthritis. Crystal deposits in joints can be destructive as well as painful. Treatment, therefore, has two objectives: To relieve the pain of the acute attack, thus restoring normal function, and to prevent the accumulation of crystals that can lead to degenerative disease. Identification and subsequent treatment of preventable or correctable underlying disorders may be one of the most gratifying aspects of managing crystal-induced arthropathies.
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