If you have gout, you know the unfortunate signs of a gout flare-up. There's nothing you can do to stop a gout attack once it's started, but there are things you can do to care for a gout flare at home.
A gout attack happens when someone who already has higher than normal levels of uric acid in the body has a build-up of uric acid around a joint. Uric crystals form, causing a painful gout flare. Many things, including alcohol, some foods, stress, and some medications, can cause your uric acid level to rise, leaving you open to a gout attack.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest -- and most cherished -- medical myths out there. For our October 2011 issue, we asked Dimitrios Pappas, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, about the long-term effects of one popular childhood activity: knuckle cracking.
Q: My 10-year-old son cracks his knuckles. Is it true that it causes arthritis?
Some people with gout, also known as gouty arthritis, say a gout attack begins with a burning, itching, or tingling feeling in a joint maybe an hour or two before their gout flare-up starts. The joint may feel a little stiff or a little bit sore. Not long after these warning signals, the telltale signs of gout begin. If you get repeated gout attacks, you'll learn your body's signals that a gout flare-up is about to begin.
Sometimes, people with gout have no early signs that a gout flare is about to start. They may wake up in the middle of the night with a very painful joint.
When the gout flare starts, most people have redness, swelling, and severe pain, usually in one joint. The most common place for gout is the base of the big toe, but it can occur in other joints such as the elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, and instep.
The pain is often so strong that it hurts to have anything touch the joint at all. Many people with gout say that just the feel of the bed sheet touching the inflamed joint is very painful.
Home Care for a Gout Flare-Up
If your gout has been diagnosed and your doctor has given you medicine for a gout flare-up, take the medicine as directed when you know you are having a flare-up. In most cases, that will probably be as soon as the first signs of gout begin.