Gout is a form of arthritis that can flare up in painful episodes that last up to two weeks. Learn what triggers gout flare-ups and how to treat them. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can be very painful. It usually affects one joint at a time—often the big toe—but it can affect other joints as well, including the elbows, wrists, ankles, and knees.It occurs in people with
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can be very painful. It usually affects one joint at a time—often the big toe—but it can affect other joints as well, including the elbows, wrists, ankles, and knees.
It occurs in people with hyperuricemia (high uric acid levels in their blood). Uric acid is created when the body breaks down purines, chemicals naturally found in the body and present in some foods.
Gout goes through periods of flares (or flare-ups), when symptoms worsen, and remission periods, when you have few or no symptoms. In this article, we will cover the symptoms and causes of gout flares, treatment, and prevention.
Gout flare-ups, also called gout attacks, can be very painful. They might happen suddenly, often waking a person up in the middle of the night in intense pain and feeling like their affected joint is on fire.
Additional symptoms of a gout attack might include:
Gout attacks typically reach their peaks 12–24 hours after they start. After that, they will slowly begin to resolve, even without treatment. You should expect recovery from an attack within a week or two.
Once this attack has subsided, it is possible to not have symptoms for quite some time. You may even only experience one or two flares per year. Gout can also be a chronic, recurring condition for some people.
The cause of gout is too much uric acid in the body, which leads to uric acid crystals forming and building up in the body’s joints, fluids, and tissues. Hyperuricemia does not always lead to gout, and hyperuricemia without gout usually does not need any treatment.
Some people are more likely to have high uric acid levels. This group might include people who:
Gout attacks can be triggered by certain foods, medications, and behaviors. Knowing what triggers your gout can be vital for reducing flares in the future.
Triggers of gout attacks might include:
There are different treatments available for managing gout. However, when you are in the middle of a flare, your healthcare provider will want to focus on pain management and bringing down the gout attack as quickly as possible.
For the flare-up, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe high doses of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to reduce the pain and swelling. You might also be given a corticosteroid to help decrease pain and swelling quicker—either as a pill or an injection.
You might also consider home remedies for managing a gout flare-up to ease your discomfort.
Home remedies to consider might include:
You might not be able to predict when a gout attack will strike next. But it is possible to take action to prevent future attacks, such as by doing the following:
A gout flare can cause severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and redness in one or more joints—most commonly the big toe. Flares are sudden, often waking you up in the middle of the night to the feeling that your big toe, or other joint, is on fire.
Gout flares come and go, but it is possible to manage symptoms and prevent flares. You want to avoid their triggers—things like certain foods and alcohol. You will also want to regularly take any prescribed medications to decrease your risk for future attacks.
If you experience sudden, intense pain in a joint, reach out to your healthcare provider right away. If your joint is hot and inflamed, you might have gout, an infection, or another condition.
Untreated gout can cause permanent joint damage. But if diagnosed early and properly treated, most people with gout have a normal quality of life. With medication and lifestyle changes, you can ease symptoms and reduce the severity and frequency of gout flares.
Gout flares are the result of too much uric acid in the blood. This is often the result of eating purine-rich foods, taking certain medications, some health conditions, consuming alcohol, and becoming dehydrated.
High amounts of uric acid make it more likely for crystallization to occur and crystals to build up in the joints, leading to severe joint pain.
Gout flares typically are worse in the first 24 hours. After that, they will slowly resolve and subside within a week or two.
Painful gout attacks will start at night when a person is sleeping. They will cause a person to awaken to burning pain in their affected joint.
While researchers do not know exactly why attacks start at night, they suspect that body temperature changes and sleep issues, like sleep apnea (in which breathing starts and stops repeatedly during sleep), might be to blame.