Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Arthritis Health Center

Font Size

Gout - What Happens

Gout usually develops after a number of years of buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints and surrounding tissues. A gout attack usually starts during the night with moderate pain that grows worse. A gout attack typically causes pain, swelling, redness, and warmth (inflammation) in a single joint, most often the big toe. Then symptoms gradually go away.

  • Most gout attacks stop after about a week.
  • Mild attacks may stop after several hours or last for 1 to 2 days. These attacks are often misdiagnosed as tendinitis or a sprain.
  • Severe attacks may last up to several weeks, with soreness lasting for up to 1 month.
  • Many people have a second attack of gout within 6 months to 2 years after their first attack. But there may be intervals of many years between attacks. If gout is untreated, the frequency of attacks usually increases with time.

There are three stages of gout.1 Many people never experience the third stage.

Recommended Related to Arthritis

Understanding Arthritis -- Symptoms

Symptoms of osteoarthritis may include joint pain and progressive stiffness that develops gradually. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include painful swelling, inflammation, and stiffness in the fingers, arms, legs, and wrists occurring in the same joints on both sides of the body, especially upon awakening. Symptoms of infectious arthritis may include fever, chills, joint inflammation, tenderness, and sharp pain that is associated with an injury or infection elsewhere in your body...

Read the Understanding Arthritis -- Symptoms article > >

  • In the first stage, you have high uric acid levels in your blood, but no symptoms. The uric acid levels may stay the same, and you may never have symptoms. Some people may have kidney stones before having their first attack of gout.
  • In the second stage, uric acid crystals begin to form, usually in the big toe. You begin to have gout attacks. After an attack, the affected joint feels normal. The time between attacks may grow shorter. Your later attacks may be more severe, last longer, and involve more than one joint.
  • In the third stage, symptoms may never go away. They may affect more than one joint. Gritty nodules called tophi may form under your skin.
    • Without treatment, the tophi may form in the cartilage of the external ear or the tissues around the joint (bursae, ligaments, and tendons). This can cause pain, swelling, redness, and warmth (inflammation). Progressive crippling and destruction of cartilage and bone is possible.
    • This stage of gout is uncommon because of advances in the early treatment of gout.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 30, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Mature woman exercise at home
    Hint: Warming up first is crucial.
    feet with gout
    Quiz yourself.
    woman in pain
    One idea? Eat fish to curb inflammation.
    senior couple walking
    Can you keep your RA from progressing?
    xray of knees with osteoarthritis
    close up of man wearing dress shoes
    feet with gout
    close up of red shoe in shoebox
    two male hands
    Woman massaging her neck
    5 Lupus Risk Factors