Gout Frequently Flares In Your Knee But You May Not Always Know That Your Knee Pain Is Due To Gout Heres How To Tell Since Prompt Treatment Can Reduce Your Risk Of Complications
Knee pain can be a common symptom of several types of arthritis, as well as many other conditions or injuries. If your knee stiffness is accompanied by a burning pain and is warm to touch, you may have a gout flare in the knee.
Though gout is most often associated with the big toe, gout tends to flare in areas that already have arthritis, says Robert Keenan, MD, a rheumatologist with Articularis Healthcare in Summerville, South Carolina. Although gout can strike in many different joints, as a general rule, gout works its way up the body. If its not treated, it works its way up from the big toe, through the ankle, to the knee, and then to the lower spine and so on.
Gout can affect both knees, but typically is felt more strongly in one knee say, where you may have arthritis wear-and-tear to begin with.
Learn more about what causes gout in the knee, as well as ways to treat the pain and prevent it in the future.
Build Muscle With Strength Exercises
Having strong muscles can protect your joint from wear and tear, especially for joints affected by gout. Beyond weight training, simple resistance exercises can be effective to build muscle. For example, try an elastic resistance band by holding each end and putting your foot in the middle, then repeat your flexibility exercises while pushing against the force of the band.
The key with any exercise after a gout flare is to go slow and listen to your body, Dr. Iversen stresses.
Questions About Managing Gout
Treating gout includes both medication and lifestyle modifications. Knowing the right questions to ask your doctor can help you figure out the best treatment plan.
Gout is a disease that can flare without warning. Asking your doctor these 10 questions can help you better manage the condition.
Why do I have gout?
Gout is caused by deposits of sharp, needle-like crystals of uric acid in the joints that create inflammation, redness, and heat around the joint, along with extreme pain. Uric acid comes from two main sources: internally from the destruction of old or damaged body cells and externally from foods, such as red meat and seafood, that contain a lot of a substance called purines.
A number of factors can increase your chances of getting gout, including genetics, gender, age, weight, and medical conditions, including hypertension. Some medications, like diuretics, can also cause gouts.
Your doctor may feel that some combination of these factors has put you at high risk, or that your diet has contributed to the problem.
What other medical conditions are linked to gout?
High uric acid levels are linked to hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. Treating these conditions may improve gout.
How long will a gout attack last and how often will I get one?
What are my gout medication options?
After the attack subsides, many people will need ongoing treatment designed to keep uric acid levels in a normal range to prevent further attacks.
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Is Knee Pain Due To Gout Or Something Else
Most people with gout in the knee experience intense pain during a gout attack. Swelling may also be noticeable during an active flare, as well as redness and warmth.
The pain may develop in the night and hurt continuously for up to two weeks before the flare subsides, with the most intense pain in the first 24 hours. But if gout is not treated, typically with medication to lower uric acid levels, gout flares will recur and over time and affect more joints, including the knee.
Doctors cant say for sure why gout flares occur more often at night but, according to a 2015 study, it might be because your body temperature goes down at night, which could make uric acid more likely to crystallize.
Although the pain of a gout attack is distinct, there may be other reasons for your knee pain you should be aware of.
Your knee pain could be caused by buildup of different kinds of crystals called calcium pyrophosphate . Doctors can examine fluid in your inflamed knee to determine if the crystals are uric acid or calcium pyrophosphate.
Myth: Women Aren’t Afflicted By Gout
Truth: Men and women alike can develop the disease, although men are more vulnerable earlier in life. “Gout is 10 times more common in men than in women, until women reach menopause. The incidence of new cases of gout in men and women tends to equal out after age 60 or so,” says Herbert Baraf, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Throbbing pain on the tip of your big toe? You might have gout.
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The Role Of Medication In Prevention Of Gout
Table 3: Medications to pevent attacks of gout
Standard medications in preventing gout attacks
i. Colchicine : using the matches analogy discussed above1, using colchicine can be seen as dampening the uric acid matches. Colchicine does not lower the bodys store of uric acid, but it decreases the intensity of the bodys inflammatory reaction to these crystals. Recent studies have shown that at least one mechanism of colchicines action is by acting to prevent a cascade of reactions that lead to the production of interleukin 1-beta, which is an inflammatory protein , which is important in gouty inflammation.8
ii. Allopurinol: This agent is presently the most commonly used drug for the prevention of gout. Allopurinol blocks the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which blocks the breakdown of purines, thus decreasing the bodys total amount of uric acid. Allopurinol is effective in preventing gout no matter what the mechanism of the elevated uric acid was. Whether a person is making too much uric acid, or has difficulty excreting it via the kidney, allopurinols decrease in uric acid production leads to the same goal: a decreased total body uric acid.
Table 4: Reasons to use medication to lower uric acid
How Long Will Your Untreated Gout Last
Now that you know untreated gout resolves naturally in 2 to 5 days, you might be tempted to avoid any form of gout treatment. But even if you can cope with gout pain now, will you be able to when it gets worse and you are older?
So, if you are having a gout attack now, it is nice to know it will end soon. But, in any case, you need to stop gout permanently by getting uric acid safe. Because that ensures you never have to worry about gout attacks in future. Therefore talk to your doctor now. Or ask for more ways you can cut the time that gout lasts.
Leave How Long Does Gout Last If Untreated to read more .
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Myth: Only Wealthy And Obese People Get Gout
Truth: People of all sizes get gout although extra pounds increase the risk, says John Reveille, M.D., director of rheumatology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Gout is also more common in people who have other, often weight-related health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure or cholesterol. And while income has nothing to do with the condition, genes do play a part: If your parents had gout, you’re more likely to have it as well.
Gout is not a gender-specific disease.
Signs And Symptoms Of Gout
Any joint can be affected by gout, but it usually affects joints towards the ends of the limbs, such as the toes, ankles, knees and fingers.
Signs and symptoms of gout include:
- severe pain in one or more joints
- the joint feeling hot and very tender
- swelling in and around the affected joint
- red, shiny skin over the affected joint
Symptoms develop rapidly over a few hours and typically last three to 10 days. After this time the pain should pass and the joint should return to normal.
Almost everyone with gout will experience further attacks at some point, usually within a year.
Read more about the complications of gout.
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How Gout Treatment Prevents Disease Progression
Fortunately, in part because of its long history, gout is one of the most well-understood and most medically treatable forms of arthritis. The progression of gout is preventable by starting appropriate treatment as soon as possible, Dr. Meysami says. Uric acid-lowering agents, such as allopurinol , can decrease uric acid levels and prevent gout attacks.
During flares, gout patients can take NSAIDs or corticosteroids to calm the attack. Local steroid injections may also be given. A medication called colchicine is also often used to stop acute attacks, but its given now at a much lower dose in order to avoid side effects, including stomach upset.
After a flare ends, long-term treatment can begin. Almost all people with gout will need medication to control their urate, Dr. Fields says. To get a good outcome, people with gout need to get their blood urate level below 6.0 mg/dl and keep it there. By doing that, the body will gradually pull the urate crystals out of their joints, and the flares can stop. Tophi will also gradually disappear.
Medications called xanthine oxidase inhibitors limit the amount of uric acid your body produces. These include allopurinol and febuxostat . Colchicine, which decreases the inflammatory response to gout, may also be given along with allopurinol at the start of long-term treatment after a flare subsides.
What Happens At Your Appointment
The GP may ask about your diet and if you drink alcohol.
They may refer you to see a specialist and arrange a blood test and scan. Sometimes a thin needle is used to take a sample of fluid from inside the affected joint, to test it.
The blood test will find out how much of a chemical called uric acid there is in your blood.
Having too much uric acid in your blood can lead to crystals forming around your joints, which causes pain.
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The Four Stages Of Gout
Gout is best understood by seeing it as having four phases or stages :
Stage 1: High uric acid
Elevated uric acid without gout or kidney stone, this stage has no symptoms and is generally not treated.
Stage 2: Acute flares
This stage is marked by acute gout attacks causing pain and inflammation in one or more joints.
Stage 3: Intercritical periods
These are periods of time between acute attacks, during which a person feels normal but is at risk for recurrence of acute attacks.
Stage 4: Advanced gout
This is a stage of chronic gouty arthritis, in which there are lumps of uric acid, or tophi , frequent attacks of acute gout, and often a degree of pain even between attacks .
Figure 1: Stages of Gout
Figure 2: Illustration of Toe Joint with Gouty Tophus. normal toe joint Urate crystals, shown in white, at the “bunion joint,” represent a gouty tophus.)
Figure 3: Progression of Gout
Expert Tips For Exercising When You Have Gout
Having gout doesnt mean you cant be active or even run on a regular basis, the key is to increase your workout intensity gradually, Dr. Iversen recommends, adding that you should consult your physician and physical therapist before starting any exercise routine.
She suggests these five gout-friendly workout tips to start and keep moving with gout:
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How Is Gout In The Ankle Diagnosed
If you think you might have gout but havent been diagnosed, try to see a doctor while youre having symptoms. Gout is easier to diagnose when youre in the middle of a flare-up thats causing swelling, redness, and other visible symptoms.
During your appointment, your doctor will likely ask you several questions about your diet, any medications you take, and whether you have a family history of gout. This can help to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms, including an infection or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check your uric acid levels. But some people have high levels of uric acid and dont develop gout. Others have typical uric acid levels but still develop gout. As a result, theyll want to do some other tests as well.
An X-ray, MRI, or CT scan of your ankle can also help to eliminate other possible causes of joint inflammation. Depending on your exam, they may also order an ultrasound to check for the presence of crystals in your ankle.
Finally, they might do a joint fluid test. This involves taking a small sample of joint fluid from your ankle with a small needle and looking at it under a microscope for any uric acid crystals.
Based on the results of your exam and tests, they may refer you to an inflammatory arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist for treatment.
Theres no cure for gout, but a combination of medications and home treatments can help to manage ankle pain and reduce the number of flare-ups you have.
When Gout Becomes A Long
When uric acid levels in your blood stay too high, more and more crystals form around your joints. It can turn into a long-term condition, leading to painful and damaged joints.
Gout will happen differently for everyone. But signs that it may be getting worse include:
- Flares happen more often and last longer. Over time, the inflammation causes lasting damage to bone and cartilage.
- Flare-ups in other parts of your body. About half of people with gout have their first attack in the joint at the base of the big toe. When gout gets worse, it can affect other joints, including the ankle and knee.
- Bumps form under the skin. Uric acid crystals may start to collect in soft tissue, forming lumps called tophi. They often appear on the hands, fingers, elbows, and ears, but they can show up almost anywhere on the body.
- Kidney problems. Your kidneys normally get rid of uric acid in your body. But too much of it can also damage the organs. Kidney problems linked with gout — and signs that gout is getting worse — include gouty kidney, kidney stones, and kidney failure.
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What Causes Gout In The Knee
Gout develops when the body has high levels of uric acid, a normal waste product. This is known as hyperuricemia.
Uric acid is normally excreted through the body via the kidneys, but in some people, levels can remain high and uric acid can start to accumulate and crystallize in various joints. When these uric acid crystals affect the joint in the knee, it can cause gout symptoms in the knee, making the knee joint red, swollen, and hot to the touch. The buildup of uric acid can also impair the knee joints full range of motion, which can make it difficult to walk.
A number of factors can influence your risk for gout.
Myth: Gout Pain Always Attacks The Big Toe
Truth: Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood, forming crystals that lodge in and inflame joints. It’s true that gout often first attacks the joints of the big toe, but it can also occur in the knees, ankles, feet and hands. In women with osteoarthritis, for example, gout pain commonly starts in the small joints of the hands. Although the first attacks often involve only one or two joints, over time multiple joints become affected. If the disease isn’t treated, it can cause permanent damage.
Avoiding alcohol may reduce your chance of getting gout attacks.
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Get Tested For Sleep Apnea
Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of gout.12,13 Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes the body to take in less oxygen while sleeping, which in turn causes the body to produce more purines.12,14 Sleep apnea is typically treated with a continuous positive airway pressure machine or other device that increases oxygen intake while sleeping.
Arthritis / Acute Gout Attack
Gout is a form of arthritis, hence it causes pain and discomfort in the joints. A typical gout attack is characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain, swelling, warmth, and redness of a joint. The clinical presentation of acute gouty arthritis is not subtle with very few mimics other than a bacterial infection.
The joint most commonly involved in gout is the first metatarsophalangeal joint , and is called podagra. Any joint may be involved in a gout attack with the most frequent sites being in the feet, ankles, knees, and elbows.
An acute gout attack will generally reach its peak 12-24 hours after onset, and then will slowly begin to resolve even without treatment. Full recovery from a gout attack takes approximately 7-14 days.
An accurate and colorful discription of a gout attack was elegantly written in 1683 by Dr. Thomas Sydenham who was himself a sufferer of gout:
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Treating Gout With Medications
Certain medications reduce the pain and inflammation of gout attacks, such as anti-inflammatory drugs , colchicine, and corticosteroids. Other medications decrease the level of uric acid in the blood and prevent the deposit of uric acid in joints , the kidneys , and in tissue , helping to prevent further attacks and complications. These drugs include allopurinol, febuxostat, lesinurad, and probenicid.