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.
Warning Signs of a Gout Flare-Up
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 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.
Your health care provider may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), indomethacin (Indocin), sulindac (Clinoril), celecoxib (Celebrex), or meloxicam (Mobic) or suggest you take over-the-counter NSAIDs in prescription doses. This usually will be effective.
In some cases, you already may be taking medicine to help avoid gout flare-ups. Your doctor may suggest:
- febuxostat (Uloric)
- allopurinol (Lopurin, Zyloprim)
- colchicine (Colcrys)
- probenecid (Benemid)
Just because you have a flare doesn't mean these medicines aren't working. In the first few months that you take this type of gout medication, you actually may have a gout flare-up as your body adjusts to the medicine. Your doctor will likely have given you medicine to take if this happens, so take that medicine when you have a flare. Continue to take the preventive medicine, too.
If you have been taking preventive gout medicine for a long time and have started to have flares for the first time in a while, call your doctor. He may talk to you about changing your dosage or your medicine.