Gout Symptoms & Diagnosis
Gout is a complex version of arthritis that causes severe pain in the joints. It develops when uric acid builds up in the blood, which in turn can create urate crystals (needle-like crystals) that jut out from the joints.
Symptoms of Gout usually involve only one or a few joints and starts with a sudden onset of swelling. Typically most effected is the joint on the big toe, knee or ankle, but any joint in the body can realistically be affected. The swelling will cause severe pain that starts suddenly, often during the night and is often described as a throbbing, crushing or excruciating pain. This pain may last 12-72 hours.
The affected joint(s) may appear reddish or purple and feel warm to the touch. While this may look like a more severe infection, it is simply part of the gout symptoms. After an attack, the skin around the affected area may itch and begin to peel, but not every case of gout includes peeling skin. Extreme tenderness may also be evident, where it may hurt to lay a sheet or blanket over it.
After a few days, the pain will begin to subside, but there may be a lingering ache in the joint. The lingering ache may last for a few days or up to a couple of weeks. The gout attack may completely go away in a few days, but may return. Additional attacks often last longer.
Some may develop chronic gout. As flare ups continue, joints affected by the gout may become less flexible over time, making those joints more difficult and uncomfortable to use.
As always, we recommend visiting your doctor if you suffer from severe and sudden pain in one or more of your joints. To diagnose gout, your doctor may run a blood test, a joint fluid test, or both. A blood test will confirm the level of uric acid accumulation in your blood, while a joint fluid test will use a needle to determine if there are urate crystals in your joints. Once a firm diagnosis is made, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid the onset of chronic gout.