What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gout?

Gout is an extremely painful disease that is caused by having higher than normal levels or uric acid in the body. A gout attack or flare up can last for several days and can occur every once in a while or in some cases very frequently. The pain caused by Gout patients can be very severe and in extreme cases, many patients find their gout attacks to be incapacitating and the recurrence of them significantly decreases their quality of life.

What is the Difference between Signs & Symptoms?

Recognizing a Gout attack requires some understanding on what to look out for. In the case of gout, like many diseases it can produce both signs and symptoms. It's important to distinguish the two so you can properly assess your current condition.

  • Signs
  • Signs are objective, they are identifiers that you can feel, hear, see and that can be measured. It is also the definitive indication of a disease and is identified by a physician or a doctor. Since signs are a physical manifestation of injury, illness, or disease they are usually visual and can be easily detected by a doctor. Signs are not often clear to patients, but they are significant to a doctor's assessment and diagnosis. Some examples of signs include a high temperature, a rapid pulse, high blood pressure, open wounds and swelling.

  • Symptoms
  • Symptoms are subjective and that is because they are identified by the patient; this is the reason why your doctor will ask you about how you feel or changes in your body when you visit them. They need to understand your symptoms, and that's only something you can feel. Symptoms are identifiers that are experienced by the patient, are not visible outward and cannot be measured or verified by a doctor. Some examples of symptoms include chills, nausea, shivering, pain and a fever.

What are the Symptoms of Gout?

  • Inflammation
  • Inflammation is a common symptom among arthritis diseases and usually occurs in the joints. It's not uncommon to feel a tingly, warm sensation in areas like your big toe, knee, ankle joints, finger or wrist - these areas are also prone to gout and arthritis. Inflammation occurs when the body's white blood cells collect around the area that needs to be protected from foreign substances. In the case of gout, the foreign substances are uric acid crystals that localize around the joints. The white cells that arrive at the affected area begin a process to protect the tissue which can stimulate the surrounding nerves and cause pain. When an areas is inflamed it will be red, swollen, and warm and tender to the touch.

  • Pain
  • Pain from gout is caused by the inflammatory response that your body is experiencing. The pain varies from individual-to-individual and is often described as crushing, throbbing or excruciating.

  • Redness
  • The joints affected from gout flare-ups will often be red due to the increase of blood activity in the area. In addition, the joint will be extremely tender to the touch where it's painful to put any stress on the joint or to even brush fabric from your clothes or blanket across it.

  • Stiffness
  • Stiffness will occur due to the inflammatory response and due to the accumulation of uric acid in the joint that inhibits full movement. The affected joint will be difficult to move or bend and will often feel as if it is locked in place or solid like a rock.

  • Swelling
  • The joint affected by gout will often times double in size or take on 'ball-like' forms due to inflammation. Swelling is unlike swelling from other injuries because it normally doesn't go down within 24 to 48 hours. The swelling of the joint makes the area extremely sensitive and contributes to the pain felt from a flare up.

  • Fever
  • In some individuals a fever can occur due to your immune system responding to foreign substances in the body. Often times the body will raise your internal temperature in an effort to kill off the foreign substances.

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What are the Signs of Gout?

Signs of Gout can be identified and properly diagnosed by a doctor, preferably a rheumatologist. Since the signs of Gout share similar traits to other injuries or conditions it's best to seek the advisory of a doctor to confirm whether or not you are suffering from a gout attack.

  • Swelling or Enlargement of Joints
  • The first identifier for gout are the apparent swelling or enlargement of joints. Doctors will see this as a result of the immune system response, inflammation and recognize that the joint is current underdoing a protective process. Joints affected by gout will be slightly enlarged, swollen, red, warm and tender to the touch upon inspection. The doctors will also want to know the duration of the swelling as it helps point them in the direction of a gout attack.

  • High or Abnormal Uric Acid Levels
  • If gout is suspected, your doctor will order a blood test to determine the uric acid levels in your blood. Elevated uric acid levels has been directly linked to the cause of gout and is something that can't be tested without a health practitioner's oversight. In order to test the uric acid levels in your body, blood will be drawn the sent to the lab. Results that typically read over 7 mg/dL are an indication that uric acid levels are high and that you may be suffering from gout.

  • Monosodium Urate Crystals in Synovial Fluid
  • An examination of the synovial fluid in your joints is another method doctors will use in your diagnosis. This method is the most accurate as it requires the extraction of synovial fluid, the lubricating liquid in your joints and where the uric acid crystals collected, from the affected joint and a laboratory analysis. Results from this test can reveal the presence of monosodium urate crystals which likely confirm the diagnosis of gout.

Unusual Symptoms Associated with Gout

Since gout stimulates an immune response it can cause the body to experience other symptoms that while not always common, are possible. In addition, chronic gout can give rise to other or secondary symptoms due to the damage it does to your joints and tissues.

  • Flu-like Symptoms
  • Due to the inflammation, a type of immune response from gout flare-ups, the body can experience flu-like symptoms such as a high fever, muscle aches, fatigue and chills.

  • Kidney Stones
  • Elevated uric acid levels that cause gout has also been linked to kidney stones. Since there a high level in the body, the kidneys develop a buildup of uric acid crystals that contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Kidney stones can be excruciatingly painful and can lead to kidney disease or failure.

  • Tophi
  • Those with chronic gout and constant high levels of uric acid can develop a condition where the uric acid crystal deposits appear as small white or yellow nodules under the skin. These deposits are known as tophi and commonly appear joints such as the toes, knees and elbows. While tophi are harmless, they can become inflamed and produce discharge.

  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain
  • In rare cases, gout can affect the sacroiliac joint, a joint located on either side of the pelvis between the sacrum and ilium. This can lead to chronic lower back pain or hip pain and can impair mobility and movement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gout Symptoms

Which joints are affected?

Gout affects most joints in the body. Typically the first attack can occur in the big toe joint and if recurring can go on to affect the insteps, ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows.

Pattern of symptoms?

Symptom of a gout attack are sudden and severe in pain. While there is no warning or 'pre-symptom' period for gout, its pattern of attack is familiar. Gout can occur at any time, the affected joint will begin to feel warm and you will likely have a tingling sensation in the joint. Overtime, the joint will become inflamed and this will include swelling, redness and enlargement of the affected joint. As the gout attack continues, you will feel throbbing in the joint and experience excruciating pain, for individuals the joint may stiffen, rendering that joint immobile. As gout subsides, the swelling will lessen and the skin around the affected area may start peeling and become itchy due to inflammation.

Do gout symptoms get worse at night?

Some individuals report that their symptoms are worse at night. While there is no study or evidence to prove that gout is indeed worse at night, there might be other contributing factors to this. One may be that because your body is at rest and shutting down, you become more attuned to the pain from your gout flare up. Additionally, the fact that your affected area (usually in the lower body) is positioned lower than the heart, this worsens inflammation. If suffering a gout attack, elevate your leg so that it is above heart level and to help lessen the swelling and inflammation.

What are the symptoms of extreme gout?

The symptoms of extreme gout are similar to a normal gout attack. It can also occur suddenly and without warning and include symptoms of intense joint pain, lingering discomfort, inflammation and redness and limited range of motion.

What is the duration of gout symptoms? How long does it last?

Gout symptoms vary among individuals based on their response, prevention methods, treatment techniques and personal care. Symptoms typically last from one week to 14 days and can even last as long as 28 days. If you are experiencing chronic or prolonged gout attacks, try taking the Gout Test to determine your severity and receive a personalized treatment plan.

What are gout symptoms during pregnancy?

Gout during pregnancy is not very common, but it can happen. The symptoms during pregnancy are similar to a regular gout attack and include swelling in the pain and joints. Most medications for gout are not safe for pregnant women so the best route to take in overcoming gout during pregnancy is to change your lifestyle, monitoring your diet to avoid red meats, seafood and only eating healthy sources of fats, limit your salt intake, take necessary rest and drink plenty of fluids to help flush the uric acid from the body.

What are gout ear symptoms?

Gout in the ear is extremely rare and unlikely to happen, but can occur in chronic gout sufferers. Ear gout symptoms include twinges of pain the ear, the affected area being red, hot, and swollen and potentially contributing to recurring headaches until the gout attack subsides.

Is elbow pain a symptom of gout?

Gout can affect most joints in the body and that includes your elbow. If you are experiencing redness, swelling, inflammation and pain in the elbow it is likely to be gout. However, consider that there are many other problems that are related to elbow pain including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, pseudo gout, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, lupus and lyme disease. It's important that if you experience prolonged pain, swelling or inflammation in the joint that you seek a doctor's diagnosis to properly treat your ailment.

Can I have gout like symptoms but it may not be gout?

Inflammation is a typical response of the body that can be stimulated by different types of conditions, diseases and injuries. If you are experiencing swelling, inflammation, redness and tenderness in a joint and are not sure if it is gout it's a good idea to see your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. There are many other diseases that share similar symptoms to gout, rheumatoid arthritis or a bacterial infection in the joint are just two examples of other conditions that trigger gout like symptoms.

Can I have gout symptoms but normal uric acid level?

It is possible to have a gout attack even with normal uric acid levels and this could simply be due to a malfunction in your body's system to properly filter out uric acid. Uric acid if given the right conditions can still crystalize and localize in the joints leading to a gout attack.

How to prevent gout symptoms?

If you are at risk for gout or are concerned of your likelihood of developing gout, then you should consider the following lifestyle choices to prevent gout attacks and gout symptoms from impairing your quality of life:

  • Eat a diet that is low in bad fats, sugars and that is free of foods high in purines (red meat and shellfish are the worst offenders)
  • Get on a practical and healthy weight loss plan to gradually lose weight. Losing weight can help lower uric acid levels, however losing weight too rapidly will release the uric acid that were trapped in your fat cells which will break down during weight loss and result in a sudden influx of uric acid, thus leading to a gout attack. Seek professional help online, with your doctor or a local gym to get you on the right track for weight loss.
  • Restrict your alcohol intake, especially beer
  • Stay hydrated
  • Talk to your doctor about your concerns so that you can work together to make the necessary changes and obtain the most options in preventing a future gout attack.

How to get relief from gout symptoms?

In order to get fast relief from gout symptoms you can speak with your doctor about pain medications to help you. If pain medications are not an option for you or you would like to explore different treatment methods you can read about common home remedies that many gout sufferers use to help with their symptoms and to prevent future attacks.

What can happen to untreated gout symptoms?

Untreated gout symptoms can lead to a series of failures throughout the body. The high levels or uric acid will leave the kidneys overworked and constantly clogged, leading to kidney damage and disease. Additionally, the uric acid crystals in your joint combined with the swelling can break down the tissue in your joints overtime leading to permanent joint damage that you render you immobile. Finally, gout attacks weaken the structure of your bones and can lead to diseases such as osteoporosis.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms gout

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that supports bone healthy by increasing the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Gout attacks are known to weaken bones over time and can cause permanent damage to the supporting cartilage and tissue. Vitamin D can help reverse a lot of this damage. If you are deficient in vitamin D you can experience worsened symptoms of gout due to your body lacking the proper minerals to repair itself.