Gout: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Anyone who has gout will want to get get rid of it.

This painful condition affects individual joints, making them difficult to move and causing constant discomfort that is made worse when using the joint.

What is Gout?

Gout is technically a form of arthritis but only affects individual joints.

Gout occurs when a chemical called uric acid accumulates in a joint.

In high concentrations, uric acid turns into crystals that form the long, sharp shape that most crystals have.

Inside of a joint, these sharp, pointy crystals grate across the inside structures of the joint whenever it moves, causing damage, pain, and inflammation.

What Are Gout Symptoms?

Gout Symptoms

Gout primarily causes pain and inflammation that often only affects a single joint.

Statistically, one of the big toes is most often affected, although gout can also occur anywhere in the feet, hands, knees, or any other joint.

Because the uric acid crystals essentially lacerate the inside of the joint, gout causes pain, redness, and swelling that occurs in the affected joint.

This inflammation may also be warm to the touch.

Gout can also cause a symptom called crepitus with movement of the joint. Crepitus is a grating, creaking type of sensation that would be similar to moving a hinge that needs oiling.

While gout causes several distinguishing symptoms, ultimately, it takes a trained doctor to diagnose gout. A physician will often use testing, such as an X-ray or blood test, to help them diagnose gout.

What Is The Main Cause of Gout?

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid. Uric acid builds up in your body when your body breaks down purines, a chemical found in certain foods.

Foods High In Purines

While there are several factors that can influence the risk of gout, it is mainly caused by eating foods that contain high quantities of purines.

Who is at Risk for Gout?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several different risk factors for gout in addition to consuming high quantities of purines.

The risk factors for gout include:

  • Males
  • Obesity
  • History of congestive heart failure
  • History of hypertension
  • History of insulin resistance
  • History of metabolic syndrome
  • History of diabetes
  • History of kidney problems
  • Using certain medications
  • Drinking alcohol, especially heavily
  • Eating or drinking high amounts of fructose

Many of these risk factors are risk factors for gout because they contribute to the buildup of uric acid in the body.

How is Gout Diagnosed?

Gout must be diagnosed by a healthcare provider who is licensed to diagnose medical conditions. Healthcare providers will typically use a combination of three different sources of information to diagnose gout:

Gout X-Ray

By Hellerhoff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

  • Physical exam - The physical symptoms of gout tend to be relatively specific to gout, making a physical examination a good way for doctors to tell if someone has gout.
  • X-ray - Because gout causes a buildup of solid crystals, it can be seen on an X-ray. Doctors will often order an X-ray to determine if gout is occurring or if there is another cause of the symptoms.
  • Blood tests - Because gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid, a blood test can reveal if uric acid levels are high. Your doctor may order a blood test to see if your uric acid levels are high.
  • Are There Treatments for Gout?

    Gout is typically treated using medications and lifestyle changes.

    Medications will help to manage the symptoms of gout and treat the underlying cause, while lifestyle changes can help to reduce the occurrence of gout.

    Lifestyle changes involve reducing the amount of foods that contain purines and improving overall health.

    Gout Medications

    When someone is suffering from gout, anti-inflammatory medications will often be used to reduce the inflammation that occurs. These medications do not help to treat gout, but do reduce gout symptoms and make you more comfortable.

    In addition to anti-inflammatory pain medications, gout can also be treated using medicines that help to reduce the amount of uric acid.

    This helps to actually treat the cause of gout.

    Gout Home Remedies

    There are many gout home remedies out there but these are not typically encouraged by the medical community, as they have not been proven to actually be helpful.

    Home remedies may help some people but should not be attempted in place of seeking medical help based on reliable research.

    Gout Frequently Asked Questions:

    1. Is gout hereditary?

    Having a close relative who has gout does increase your chances of having gout, but medical researchers are still unsure if this is due to genetics. Gout is highly influenced by lifestyle, and a close relative’s lifestyle is likely to influence yours.

    2. What foods cause gout?

    Foods high in fructose or purines are most likely to cause or worsen gout. These foods include:

    • Seafood, especially shellfish
    • Red meat, especially organ meats
    • Sweetened drinks, especially sodas or artificially sweetened juices
    • Alcohol

    3. What blood tests detect gout?

    Gout itself cannot be detected using a blood test; however, the chemical that causes it can. A uric acid test will determine if the amount of uric acid in your blood is higher than normal, giving insight into if elevated uric acid levels may be causing gout.

    4. What can be mistaken for gout?

    Symptoms of gout may actually be indicators of other conditions besides gout. An infection in a joint, also called a septic joint, may mimic gout. Other diseases causing joint inflammation may also mimic gout.

    5. What is the fastest way to get rid of gout?

    If you have gout, the fastest way to get rid of it is to make healthy lifestyle choices, avoid foods high in purines, and see a doctor.

    Seeing a doctor will enable you to get the treatment you need and guidance on how to avoid gout in the future.

    Do I Need to See a Rheumatologist for Gout?

    A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases affecting the joints.

    Most cases of gout can be diagnosed and treated by a primary care doctor without having to use the specialized services of a rheumatologist.

    Your doctor may, however, consult with a rheumatologist if the gout is severe, long-lasting, or connected with other, more complicated diseases.

    Check Our List of Rheumatology Services