Symptoms that suggest you need gout treatment
If you develop gout, you will probably experience problems with your joints. Gout may affect only a single joint, most commonly the joint of the big toe. However, several other joints can become involved, most often the ankles, knees, elbows and wrists.
Gout generally occurs suddenly, causing swelling, pain and redness of the affected joint. The skin covering the joint may become red and shiny, and white lumps – urate crystals – may be noticeable under the skin’s surface. Gout can also lead to kidney stones and kidney damage due to blockages caused by the urate crystals. In severe or recurrent cases, gout can lead to permanent damage or deformity of the hands or feet. If you experience sudden joint pain, seeing a private specialist to get a prompt diagnosis can enable effective gout treatment to be initiated quickly enough to prevent this.
How is gout diagnosed?
As gout has a very clear cause - the build up of uric acid in the blood and urate crystals in joints - it is relatively easy to test for this. Several techniques can test for and confirm gout as the cause of your joint pain. Following initial assessment of your symptoms and physical examination, a sample of blood is taken together with a smaller sample of the fluid from within the affected joint to check for uric acid and urate crystals. You will probably also have X-rays of the affected joint. Only when a firm diagnosis of gout has been made, will your specialist recommend starting gout treatment.
What types of gout treatment are available?
Gout treatment usually begins with painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce the pain and swelling of the joint. However, NSAIDs are for gout treatment in everyone affected due to possible side effects. Some people find they simply don’t work in which case gout treatment in the form of steroids may be prescribed instead.
As well as dealing with the symptoms, some gout treatments target the underlying cause of gout:
Colchicine is a drug that acts to reduce the build of urate in the body and can be used to treat acute attacks of gout.
Allopurinol acts to stop urate being formed in the first place and is used long-term to prevent future attacks.
Other drugs used in gout treatment, such as probenecid or sulphinpyrazone, act by increasing the amount of urate that is cleared from the body and excreted in the urine. Again, this is a long-term, preventative type of gout treatment that isn’t suitable for treating acute attacks.
Potential side effects of gout treatment
It is important to drink plenty of fluids while taking these medications and to be on the lookout for side effects. While both can be effective gout treatments, colchicine can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, while allopurinol can actually make your gout feel worse initially. This is because it causes the urate levels to rise before they fall. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of gout treatments including steroids or painkillers initially to combat these effects.