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Gout - Symptoms of gout

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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The most common symptom of gout is sudden and severe pain in one or more joints; typically your big toe. Gout is extremely painful; some people feel it's as painful as childbirth.

Symptoms often develop at night, although they can occur at any time. Other symptoms include:

  • swelling (inflammation) in and around the affected joint
  • red, shiny skin over the affected joint
  • peeling, itchy and flaky skin over the affected joint as the inflammation subsides

The intense pain that gout causes can make walking and getting around difficult. Even the light pressure of a bed cover or blanket can be painful.

What joints are affected?

Seventy per cent of people with gout experience their first attack in the big toe, and most people with gout will experience pain in this joint at some point.

However, while gout is most common in the big toe, it can affect any peripheral limb joint and can occur in two or more joints at the same time.

Affected joints may include:

  • midfoot
  • ankles
  • knees
  • fingers
  • wrists
  • elbows

If gout is left untreated, it is more likely to affect more than one joint as it progresses.

Pattern of symptoms

It is difficult to predict when an attack will occur. Symptoms can develop rapidly over a few hours and usually last for 3-10 days. After this time, the joint will start to feel normal again and any pain or discomfort should eventually disappear completely.

Just over half of all people with gout (62%) experience a repeat attack within a year. You may experience symptoms every few weeks, months or years, but it is impossible to predict when the condition will recur. Some only experience a few attacks in their lifetime.

When to seek medical advice

Always see your GP if you suspect you have gout particularly if it hasn't been previously diagnosed. It is important that a diagnosis is confirmed because occasionally more serious conditions, such as an infected joint, can cause similar symptoms.

You may also require treatment with prescription medication that only your GP (or a specialist) can provide.

When to seek immediate medical advice

Contact your GP immediately or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 if you have a high temperature of above 38C (100.4F) as well as joint pain and swelling, as you may have an infection inside the joint (septic arthritis).

Medical Review: March 20, 2012
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