Since gout is a form of arthritis, it naturally affects bodily joints. Symptoms of the condition are thus localized in areas such as the toes, ankles, insoles, knees, fingers, wrists and elbows. Though gout has distinctive symptoms that are impossible to overlook, diagnosing it accurately is somewhat tricky for several reasons.
Nonetheless, there are some signs which should alert individuals to the possibility of having gout. On the occurrence of these, medical assistance should be sought immediately to lessen discomfort and avoid the risk of chronic gout.
There are some symptoms that are typically associated the condition. This is not to say that individuals who experience these are definitely suffering a gout attack, but the chances of such incidence are certainly high. These signs are:
- Intense pain in a particular joint area is felt; 70% of people suffer their first attack in the big toe. The pain typically strikes late at night and intensifies in the next eight to twelve hours.
- Alongside the severe ache, swelling and redness also appears. The affected joint and surrounding area becomes tender and warm too.
- Usually the pain begins subsiding a few hours after the initia sudden occurrence. However, discomfort and dull ache may persist for as long as a fortnight after the attack. If the condition persists over time, later attacks are likely to be more severe, last longer and affect more than one joint.
- The skin of the affected region may peel and itch as the healing process begins.
- Patients who suffer recurrent attacks are likely to experience stiffness in joints and decreased mobility.
As is evident, severe pain and inflammation are the primary symptoms of gout. The occurrence of these in any joint area should be treated as a warning sign.
In some cases, the symptoms are slightly different and thus, speedy diagnosis requires nuanced understanding of the condition. These variant symptoms include the following:
- The pain and/or inflammation may occur post an illness or surgical procedure; this often causes people to consider it as an outcome of those.
- Some individuals may not suffer from sudden, painful attacks but more subdued, continual ache in joints. This usually occurs in older adults who have contracted chronic gout. Such symptoms are often misunderstood as other forms of arthritis.
- In a few cases, the first appearance of gout may be as nodule-like deposits of uric acid under the skin of the hands, elbows or ears. These insidious formations are called tophi and often remain unaccompanied by the other typical symptoms of the condition.
The existence of such variant symptoms complicates diagnosis to a certain degree. Adding to the risk of misdiagnosis is the fact that several other conditions also produce very similar symptoms.
Conditions with Similar Symptoms
The following conditions also produce one or a combination of pain, swelling and redness:
- Pseudogout – In this condition, the pain is caused due to irritation by calcium pyrophosphate crystals (and not urate crystals). Since the cause is different, the treatment necessitated by this condition also is different from that of gout.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – With RA, though the signs are similar, they appear on both sides of the body and in more than one joint. Gout attacks usually affect one joint area, most often the in the toes and feet.
- Osteoarthritis – Though there are similarities, unlike gout, osteoarthritis develops more slowly and has more enduring symptoms.
- Certain bacterial infections of the joints may also cause gout-like symptoms. Such infections, though rare, may occur in individuals suffering low or weakened immunity.
Regardless of one’s personal regard of what their condition might be, a physician should be consulted as soon as possible, once any of the typical signs appear. Even if the pain diminishes in a few hours, consultation must be sought for proper diagnosis and treatment in the long-term.