Gout: When to seek medical help?

By  , Expert Content
Apr 10, 2012

Gout is a common type of inflammatory arthritis, which can affect anyone. Any joint in the body can be affected, but it most commonly affects the joint of the big toe. The characteristic feature of gout is sudden and severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints.

Consult a doctor immediately if you have:

  • Sudden onset of severe pain, redness and tenderness in any joint. Pain and tenderness in the gout can be severe (to the extent that even a sheet touching the skin over the affected joint can be unbearable). These symptoms are suggestive of an acute attack of gout or some other type of arthritis. Symptoms of an acute gouty attack last for about a week if left untreated and  gradually subside during the following week or two. The doctor can diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend treatment. Many patients with gout have repeated attacks of arthritis over the years.
  • Pain and swelling around a joint. It may be due to deposition of uric acid crystals in tiny fluid-filled sacs (bursae) around the joints leading to inflammation of the bursa.

Watchful waiting

If you have a repeat acute gout attack, you may take medications to relieve pain/discomfort. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or colchicine and resting the affected joint can reduce pain. Ice may be applied to reduce pain and swelling. Do not take aspirin to relieve pain in gout. Aspirin is an NSAID, but it is not prescribed for gout as it can actually make gout worse by abruptly changing the uric acid level in the blood.

Consult your doctor even if the pain from gout subsides as repeated attacks occur because of elevated blood levels of uric acid and build-up of uric acid in the joints. There are many medications that can prevent and even reverse the uric acid build-up. The doctor may recommend blood tests and other tests to check the levels of uric and then recommend medications.

Who to consult

Health professionals, who can be consulted to diagnose and treat gout include:

  • Family physician.
  • Physician assistant.
  • Nurse practitioner.
  • Internist.
  • Rheumatologist.
  • Orthopaedician.




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