What is gout?
Who is affected by gout?
What are the symptoms?
What causes it?
How is gout diagnosed?
Gout is diagnosed by finding crystals of uric acid in fluid taken from your joint. Your doctor may test your urine to see if your body is getting rid of extra amounts of uric acid. Uric acid levels can also be measured by blood tests, however these are not always accurate. Uric acid levels may be normal or even lowered during an attack or gout. Blood tests are most useful in ruling out other types of joint infections or arthritis. X-rays are often normal in the early stages of gout so are not very useful in diagnosing gout.
What will happen to me?
Without treatment, a gout attack usually lasts about one week. Another attack may not happen for months or even years. If gout is not managed well, the time between attacks may get shorter, the attacks more severe and the joints can be permanently damaged. Sometimes gout can progress into a chronic (long term) condition, causing:
What can I do during a gout attack?
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking any medicines. You may also need to protect the affected joint. For example, if your big toe is affected you may need to limit the amount of walking you do and create a bed cradle to keep your sheets off your foot when you’re in bed. See the Dealing with pain information sheet for tips on coping with pain.
Can gout be prevented?
The good news is that gout can be prevented. Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent gout, including:
Pseudogout is often mistaken as gout as it causes similar symptoms. However it is the result of a different type of crystal, called calcium pyrophosphate crystals, forming in the joint. These crystals tend to form in the cartilage, the smooth coating lining the ends of the bones. Pseudogout is diagnosed by finding calcium pyrophosphate crystals in the fluid of an affected joint. It is a separate condition from gout and may require different treatment.