Like rheumatoid arthritis, gout is an inflammatory joint condition. However, the causes and symptoms of gout are much different. Gout, sometimes called gouty arthritis, can cause intense joint pain, tenderness, swelling and warmth. If left untreated, it can cause decreased range of motion in the affected joint.
We specialize in diagnosing and treating gout pain and helping our patients get back to living their lives. Here’s what you should know about gout–and getting relief from gout-related pain.
What Is Gout?
Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. These crystals form when the body has an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream, a condition known as hyperuricemia. Typically, the body rids itself of uric acid through the kidneys in urine. However, some people have underlying health conditions or lifestyle factors that cause them to overproduce uric acid so that the body can’t get rid of it.
Which Joints Are Affected By Gout?
Gout commonly affects the joint in the big toe, but the ankle joints, knee joints, and smaller toe joints are also vulnerable.
Symptoms of gout include:
- Intense, sudden pain that often occurs at night
- Protruding or misshapen joints
Attacks of gout pain are known as flares. Typically, a flare will last anywhere from 10 to 14 hours. If left untreated, a gout flare can last up to two weeks. Untreated gout can lead to more intense flares and joint damage.
What Triggers Gout?
There are a number of underlying health conditions that can trigger gout:
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Metabolic syndrome
In addition to health conditions, some lifestyle factors may increase the risk of gout:
- Eating a diet high in purines (red meat, organ meat, seafood, fruit sugars)
- Drinking too much alcohol, especially beer
- Eating too much shellfish
- Taking certain medications
- Recent surgery or physical injury
Genetics also play a big role in a person’s risk of developing gout. If you have a family history of gout, you are at greater risk of developing it.
How Is Gout Diagnosed?
Gout can be diagnosed using a variety of tests.
First, your doctor will examine the affected joint and ask you a series of questions about the nature of your pain, when it began, how long it has lasted, etc. Next, your doctor will administer a blood test to check your uric acid levels. High levels of uric acid don’t necessarily indicate gout. However, having normal uric acid levels doesn’t eliminate gout, either. Your doctor may also request an x-ray or a CT scan to examine the affected joint. Finally, your doctor will remove fluid from the affected joint to examine it for uric acid crystals.
Gout is an extremely painful condition that can cause limited mobility and long-term joint damage. It’s important to visit a rheumatologist as soon as you suspect you’re having a gout flare.