What is Gout and how is it treated?

Gout is a form of arthritis that triggers sudden and extremely painful outbreaks. Although this condition can affect just about anyone, men are more likely to develop gout. When a gout flare-up occurs, it generally produces inflammation, swelling, and searing pain — often in the big toe. Severe gout episodes can make it difficult to put any weight on the affected joint. 

What are the Causes of Gout?

Gout develops when there is an excess build-up of uric acid in a person’s blood. When this happens, urate crystals can form in a joint, causing inflammation and the other signs and symptoms discussed below. 

Uric acid is a necessary component in the human digestive process. The human body produces uric acid to break down high-purine foods and drinks, such as red meats, seafood, alcoholic beverages, and other sugary or syrupy drinks. 

Usually, the kidneys filter out uric acid naturally, releasing when a person urinates. But when there is too much acid and urate crystals develop, that is when the painful symptoms of gout start to appear. 

What are the Symptoms of Gout?

The symptoms of gout usually manifest suddenly, without warning and oftentimes in the middle of the night. Several common symptoms of gout include:

  • Swelling, inflammation, or redness;
  • Reduced range of motion and limited weight-bearing ability; and
  • Searing pain during initial outbreaks and lingering soreness thereafter. 

How is Gout Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose gout, a medical professional generally starts with a review of the patient’s medical history. Then a physical examination is customary to assess pain severity and triggers. 

Thereafter, a doctor might also recommend the following tests to ascertain the presence of gout:

  • Fluid Tests — Drawing and analyzing fluid from the affected joint for urate crystals;
  • Blood Tests — Taking and measuring blood for uric acid and creatinine levels; or
  • Imaging Tests — Conducting X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other imaging methods to detect urate crystals and rule out other conditions. 

How is Gout Treated?

Before progressing any further, it is vital for a doctor or similarly qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat gout. It is not advisable for patients to establish their own treatment plan for such a complex condition. 

Instead, a medical professional should create a treatment plan based on the official diagnosis. Based on the patient’s medical history and other factors, a doctor will typically recommend one or more medications to manage attacks and prevent future flare-ups. 

Some of the medications prescribed to combat gout include:

  • Colchicine — This anti-inflammatory medication can treat pain from severe gout attacks. Certain patients also take a low dose on a daily basis to prevent future episodes.
  • Corticosteroids — These steroid hormones can alleviate gout pain through oral medication or direct injection. Corticosteroids are often prescribed when other methods are unsuccessful. 
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) — These anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce painful gout symptoms. Available in over-the-counter and prescription varieties, NSAIDs can treat acute attacks and also prevent future issues at lower doses.

In addition to taking medication for gout, patients must generally make lifestyle changes to limit the build-up of uric acid. To avoid acute gout attacks in the future, dietary changes can be highly effective, such as limiting intake of alcohol, high-sugar beverages, and high-purine foods. 

Do You Need Medical Help with Gout?

If you have any of the signs or symptoms of gout, it can be incredibly beneficial to seek treatment from a skilled orthopaedic surgeon. At the Orthopaedic Associates of Riverside, our doctors are board-certified with a particular emphasis on orthopaedic treatment, including gout and other forms of arthritis. If you need medical treatment for an orthopaedic issue, contact us today to schedule an appointment.