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Arthritis Health Center

Understanding Gout -- Diagnosis & Treatment

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How Is Gout Diagnosed?

To diagnose gout, blood and urine tests are needed but may not always give the answer. 

Demonstrating high uric acid in the blood is essential, but you can have a high level of uric acid without having gout. Or you may have normal uric acid levels at the time of a gout attack. 

Understanding Gout

Stressed Out Middle-Aged Man
Attacks of gout can be unexpected and excruciatingly painful. More than 2 million Americans suffer from gout, a form of arthritis. Here's what you should know.

To confirm the presence of gout, fluid drawn from the affected joint may be examined under a special polarizing microscope to see if it shows the characteristic crystals. 

X-rays are useful in confirming long-term or chronic gout but often not useful in acute cases. 

What Are the Treatments for Gout?

Anyone who experiences a gout attack quickly realizes that the first order of business is to ease the pain. Typically, an anti-inflammatory drug is used to control pain and inflammation. Ice applied to the affected joint is also helpful.

The immediate symptoms of gout will usually disappear in a few days or a week. Nonetheless, each instance of suspected gout should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Left untreated, uric acid deposits can eventually cause irreversible damage to the joints, kidneys, and other tissues.

For a gout attack, many doctors recommend oral doses of ibuprofen or naproxen, available in both prescription and nonprescription versions, or other anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin. If you are taking aspirin, your doctor may recommend that you stop it temporarily. Aspirin can slow the elimination of uric acid and make gout worse. But if you take a low dose of aspirin to prevent other problems such as a heart attack, check with your doctor before stopping it.

Oral steroid medications or injections in the affected joint may be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation in severe attacks or chronic cases. However, steroids can have undesirable side effects and must always be given by a doctor.

Another treatment for acute gout is colchicine. It can reduce the risk of recurrent attacks and is most effective if taken within the first 12 hours of a gout attack. CAUTION: Colchicine may cause serious adverse side effects, especially if taken in high doses, or may interact with a number of antidepressants, tranquilizers, or antihistamines. And because of the risk of birth defects, pregnant women should not take it.

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