How Does A Doctor Diagnose Gout
If you have sudden or severe pain in a joint, you should talk to your primary care provider . Your PCP may send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in gout and other kinds of arthritis.
Healthcare providers consider several things when confirming gout:
- Symptoms: The provider will ask you to describe your symptoms, how often they happen and how long they last.
- Physical examination: Your provider will examine the affected joint to look for swelling, redness and warmth.
- Blood work: A test can measure the amount of uric acid in your blood.
- Imaging tests: You may have pictures taken of the affected joint with X-rays, an ultrasound or MRI.
- Aspiration: The provider may use a needle to pull fluid from the joint. Using a microscope, a team member can look for uric acid crystals or a different problem .
What Else Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Gout
Consider asking your healthcare provider:
- What is causing the gout?
- Do I have any joint damage?
- What can I do to prevent future attacks?
- Can any gout medications help me?
- How long will I need to take gout medications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Gout is a painful form of arthritis. Extra uric acid in your body creates sharp crystals in the joints, leading to swelling and extreme tenderness. Gout usually starts in the big toe but can affect other joints. Gout is a treatable condition, and the uric acid level can be decreased by medication and lifestyle changes. Talk to your healthcare provider about medications that can reduce uric acid levels. They can also discuss changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to prevent and reduce gout attacks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/15/2020.
Diagnostic Tests/lab Tests/lab Values
- Arthrocentesis and synovial fluid analysis: should be performed upon initial presentation..
- Gram stain and culture: to rule out infectious arthritis
- Elevated serum urate levels may support diagnosis but are not sensitive or specific. Levels should be measured on several different occasions and it is possible for levels to be normal during and actute attack. Elevated levels are considered to be greater than 7mg/dL.
- 24 hour urate excretion: normal is 600-900 mg. This may help identify hyper production of uric acid or decreased excretion.
- X-rays: to examine tophi. X-rays are not essential for diagnosis.
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Medications For Acute Gout
How Can A Gout Attack Be Prevented
Diet plays a key role diet in gout prevention: Since foods can directly set off gout attacks, patients with gout should receive counseling as to which foods are more likely to induce attacks. Losing weight is often also helpful. However, as important as diet is in gout, for most people with gout diet, and even weight loss, are not enough, and medications will be needed to get to their uric acid goal.
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Acute Attack Pain Management
Home remedies. Reducing inflammation during an acute gout attack will provide pain relief.
- Ice. Apply ice to the affected area to reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Use an ice pack or wrap a towel around the ice. Apply ice for about 20 minutes at a time.
- Elevate. Frequently raise and keep the affected area above the level of the heart.
- Rest. Move the affected area as little as possible while symptoms are present.
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. If the gout attack is mild, anti-inflammatory drugs available without a prescription may relieve pain. Because there are serious side effect of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs even the over-the-counter strength be sure to check with your doctor before taking them.
Prescription medications. Your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine such as indomethacin.
Colchicine is also given to reduce inflammation during an acute gout attack. This drug has recently been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of gout. Like all medications, colchicine has side effects that you will need to discuss with your doctor.
Your doctor may also prescribe corticosteroids for acute gout attacks. These are strong anti-inflammatory medications that can be taken either in pill form, intravenously, or injected into the painful joint. Cortisone may improve the severe inflammation very quickly.
How Can I Prevent Gout
If gout runs in your family, men in particular should limit alcohol, fats, and foods that are more likely to increase uric acid level in the body. Those include meat, sardines, bacon, mussels, and yeast. Beer, especially, can also bring on a gout attack. Drinking plenty of liquids may help minimize the risk of kidney stones. Your doctor can do blood and urine tests to figure out your potential risk of a gout attack. Itâs also a good idea for men who are at greater risk to keep an eye on their weight.
Medications can also help prevent gout attacks if you have them often. These drugs decrease the production of uric acid or increase the amount of uric acid you get rid of in urine. These medicines include allopurinol , colchicine , pegloticase , probenecid , and rasburicase .
If these medications arenât effective, your doctor may prescribe . If you have heart issues, be very cautious taking febuxostat.
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What Does Gout Look Like
Too much uric acid in the blood causes gout. Uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of purines. Generally, purines are produced by the body, but we also get purines from diet. As purines are broken down, uric acid crystals are produced. These small uric acid crystals build up in joints. The big toe is affected but other joints such as the ankle, knee, and patella are also be affected.
Treatment For Knee Gout Symptoms
As mentioned earlier, moving swiftly to neutralize the acidic reaction as early as possible is the best course of action both as gout treatment and gout prevention. There are several suggestions that can be implemented:
- Mix baking soda and water and drink it this is the fastest way to neutralize the uric acid. This can help to dissolve the crystals that have already formed and also work to keep the uric acid that hasnt crystallized in solution
- Soak towels in warm water and Epsom salts and wrap the knee then alternate with towel-wrapped icepacks
- Eat fresh celery, apples, cherries, and bananas these are strong antioxidants and alkalizing foods
- Drink clean filtered water 8oz every half hour until all knee gout symptoms have completely disappeared
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What Are The Causes And Risk Factors Of Gout In Elbow
Now that you know what elbow gout is, youre likely wondering what causes gout in elbow. In a normal individual without gout, uric acid dissolves in the blood and passes through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine. But sometimes the body produces too much uric acid, or the kidneys excrete too little of it, and when this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needle-like urate crystals that become deposited in a joint or surrounding tissue and cause pain, inflammation, and swelling. If the condition is not managed properly, symptoms of elbow gout become more likely.
Uric acid crystals tend to form in cooler temperatures, which is why they tend to form in the distal extremities, such as the hands and feet.
Some people are more susceptible to the condition than others. This may be attributed to the following risk factors:
How Is Gout In The Knee 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, especially one 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. 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, your doctor will want to do some other tests as well.
An X-ray, MRI, or CT scan of your knee can help to eliminate other possible causes of joint inflammation. Depending on your exam, your doctor may also order an ultrasound to check for the presence of crystals in your knee.
Finally, they might do a joint fluid test. This involves taking a small sample of joint fluid from your knee 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.
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How Do Health Care Providers Diagnose Gout
The most reliable method to diagnose gout is by demonstrating uric acid crystals in joint fluid that has been removed from an inflamed joint . Specially trained physicians, such as a rheumatologist or orthopedist, can carefully remove fluid from the joint. The fluid is then examined under a microscope to determine if uric acid crystals are present. This is important because other medical conditions and diseases, such as pseudogout and infection, can have symptoms similar to gout.
Gout Knee Pain Diagnosis
Your doctor can normally diagnose gout knee by from what youtell him about your symptoms and your history such as any risk factors orprevious episodes.
He can confirm thediagnosis of gout by doing blood tests, although these can be unreliable, or byremoving a small amount of fluid from the knee joint, known as aspiration.
The fluid is examined under a microscope,looking for the presence of excessive uric acid crystals. Kidney function tests may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of gout knee.
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Which Joints Are Involved In Gouty Arthritis And Why Is It Most Common In The Foot
As with all other known types of arthritis, Gout has particular joints it tends to attack, and the foot is its most common location. Gout especially favors the bunion joint, known as the first metatarsophalangeal joint , but the ankle, midfoot and knee are also common locations, as is the bursa that overlies the elbow.
The bunion joint is the first joint involved in 75% of patients and is ultimately involved in over 90% of those with this condition. . It is thought that this joint is especially involved in gout because it is the joint that receives the highest pounds per square inch of pressure when walking or running.
Late in gout, if untreated, multiple joints can be involved, including the fingers and wrists. The shoulder joint is very rarely involved by gout and the same is true of the hip.
Figure 5: Location of Gout Attacks
Treating Gout At Home
This section on how to relieve gout pain is a very useful reference for those nights when you wake
up in agony. When you have a gout attack, you need to get the uric acid out of your system and treat
Relax and keep your body calm.
Take proper medication.
For some people an over the counter anti inflammatory such as ibuprofen may be helpful but read the package insert carefully or discuss with the pharmacist.
Ice the affected area and elevate the joint.
If the pain is severe and doesnt diminish, its recommended to seek medical advice.
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What Can Increase Your Risk
A high level of uric acid in the blood is the main factor that increases your risk of developing gout. However, it’s still uncertain why some people with a high level of uric acid in the blood develop gout, while others with an equally high level don’t.
Other factors that may increase your risk of developing gout are outlined below.
What Are Risk Factors For Gout
There are many risk factors for gout. Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for gout. Gout is more common after surgery, trauma, and dehydration. Certain medications such as diuretics , which treat high blood pressure, that raise the level of uric acid in the bloodstream are risks for gout. Surprisingly, medications that lower the level of uric acid in the bloodstream, such as allopurinol , can also initially cause a flare of gout. This is because anything that raises or lowers the uric acid level can cause a gout flare by causing uric acid crystals to deposit in a joint. Low-dose aspirin can precipitate gout attacks. The treatment of certain types of cancer can cause gout because of high levels of uric acid released when the cancer cells are destroyed. Degenerative arthritis also makes affected joints more likely to be the site of a gouty attack.
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The End Of Gout Your Quick Start Plan
Shelly Mannings The End of Gout is not only a fascinating read its also refreshingly practical.
Shelly gives you two simple quick-starts:
Eat more of these
Eat fewer of these
This simple modification can correct many years of gout-causing errors in the eating. And you can start on this straight within minutes of receiving the program away.That really helped my problem of What Does Gout On The Knee Look Like.
The next step is to follow Shellys 7-day plan.
It tightens up the quick start advice and turns it into a solid, follow-along program.
The 7-day plan was the real clincher for me.
I am a pretty average cook Im competent but not at all skilled or adventurous. Turns out I didnt need to be.
The plan takes away all the thinking and gives me, for the first week, something I can simply copy.
After the first 7 days I used Shellys advice to adapt the plan according to my own tastes.
Which was pretty easy the plan is full of options so you can try different foods and see what you like best.
Its all food you can buy in your supermarket. And it includes lots of nice stuff the chocolate and strawberries desserts were real winners in my house!
Joints Affected By Gout
Gout can affect any joint, but some joints are more likely to be affected than others. Joints commonly affected include the big toe, the foots instep, heel, ankle, and knee.2 Less often, gout affects the elbow, wrist, fingertips, or spine.2–7
Gout is acute, painful swelling in the joints from uric acid buildup. Common areas include the foot and big toe.
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What To Do If You Think You Have Pain Due To Gout
The good news is that there are effective medications to treat gout, Dr. FitzGerald says. In some mild cases, gout can be self-managed with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss if needed and eating fewer high-purine foods .
However, many people with gout should be on a preventive medication to lower uric acid levels and stop flares from occurring. According to the 2020 gout treatment guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology, uric acid-lowering medication is recommended for people who:
- Have two or more gout flares a year
- Have gout tophi
- Have evidence on X-rays of joint damage due to gout
The guidelines, of which Dr. FitzGerald is a coauthor, recommend a treat-to-target strategy, which means treating gout with medication until a target uric acid level is reached.
Unfortunately, gaps in quality care for gout continue to persist and many patients do not take uric acid-lowering medication, which can leave people suffering the intense and persistent pain of gout without relief. This is why it is important to seek medical care if you experience pain that you think could be gout, Dr. FitzGerald stresses.
Gout can be diagnosed several ways, including:
- Removing fluid from the joint to identify urate crystals.
- Using ultrasound to identify several common characteristics of gout, such as collections of crystals in or around joints.
- Using dual-energy CT to detect urate crystal deposits in cases that are more advanced.
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
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