There are a variety of symptoms you should watch out for when it comes to diagnosing gout. These include:
The presence of nodules or tophi, which are huge groups of urate crystals1 in your elbows, hands, or ears
Red or purplish skin that’s usually mistaken as an infection
However, since gout is a type of arthritis, the disease’s major points of attack are the joints in your body. The disease manifests through these indicators:
Intense pain in the joints of the ankles, hands, wrists, knees, and feet
- Red, swollen, and tender joints
Lessened flexibility and limited movement in the joints
Facts About Gout Flare-Ups
Joint pains are common if you have gout, and they’re called gout attacks or flare-ups. These bouts usually strike without warning, are generally acute, and occur at night.
When you have a gout attack, your skin becomes sensitive, red, and inflamed, and can get painful to the point that even the slightest pressure on the joint can put you in agony. Hence, gout attacks or flare-ups should not be taken lightly.
While a typical gout patient may experience one to two attacks per year (or even in his or her lifetime),2 the possibility of more flare-ups rises if this illness is not addressed.
What’s more, if you experience more attacks, they tend to be longer and more severe, and recurrent gout attacks can result in serious damage in your joints and the surrounding areas.
If you or someone you know has gout symptoms, consult a doctor or health physician. Your doctor or physician can refer you to a rheumatologist (a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis) after an initial examination.3
The presence of other illnesses and medications can make the treatment of gout quite difficult. It is the job of the rheumatologist to educate patients on the roles and proper usage of different treatments, determine if gout is the cause of the arthritis, and act as a resource to primary doctors.4
Tests Used to Diagnose Gout
Different tests can be done on someone experiencing gout symptoms, with the diagnosis depending on the presence of distinguishing uric acid crystals.5 These include:
Joint fluid test: A needle is used to remove fluid from the joint and the doctor or physician analyzes it under a microscope to look for urate crystals.6
Blood test: This measures the levels of uric acid and creatinine (a chemical waste molecule created from muscle metabolism).7 A caveat about taking a blood test to check for gout is that the results may be misleading, as some people have high uric acid levels but aren’t affected by gout, while others have indicators for gout but do not have high blood uric acid levels.8
Imaging techniques such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and dual energy computed tomography (duel energy CT): These methods all help in finding out your diagnosis, but they have downsides as well.
An X-ray can display joint damage brought about as a result of longstanding gout,9 while an ultrasound or dual energy CT scan can search for urate crystals in a joint or tophus (a mass of uric acid crystals present in soft tissues of your body)10