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Gout is a common form of arthritis that causes sudden and severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in the affected joint, usually starting in the big toe. These acute gout attacks often occur at night, and the pain can be debilitating.
People with gout have a high uric acid level in their blood, called hyperuricemia. Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purines, which are found in many foods. Excess uric acid in your blood can form needle-like crystals to collect in joint fluid, causing a gout attack.
Gout flares usually go away on their own after several days, but your UCHealth provider can help you manage symptoms and prevent flares.
Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Normally, blood moves uric acid to the kidneys, and the uric acid exits the body in urine.
In people with gout, their bodies either make too much uric acid, or they eat foods and drinks that cause excess acid levels, or their kidneys can’t remove uric acid properly.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, you are more likely to develop gout if you:
The signs and symptoms of gout almost always occur suddenly, and often at night, including:
Suspect gout? See your PCP. You should see your primary care provider during your first suspected gout flare. Your provider can properly diagnosis your symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to help relieve pain and prevent flares.
Gout symptoms can be confused with another type of arthritis called calcium pyrophosphate deposition (CPPD), so a proper diagnosis is critical.
Untreated gout can lead to worsening pain and joint damage. If you have gout symptoms and also have a fever, get medical care immediately as you may have an infection.
A gout attack may only happen once, or the next one may not happen for months or even years.
If you’re having a gout attack, you should see your primary care provider.
In the meantime, you can try these steps at home to help alleviate the pain and swelling:
A typical attack lasts from a few days to 2 weeks. Your doctor will likely recommend medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids (oral or injections), indomethicine or colchicine.
Your primary care provider will also create a treatment plan for you to follow after the gout flare. The goal is to reduce your uric acid levels to prevent any future attacks.
Your plan may include:
People with gout can develop more severe conditions, such as:
Advanced gout. If left untreated, gout may cause deposits of crystals to form under the skin in nodules, called tophi, usually in the fingers, hands, feet, elbows or Achilles tendons. Tophi can become swollen and tender.
Kidney stones. Crystals may collect in the urinary tract, causing kidney stones. Medications can help reduce the risk.