How do you Diagnose Gout?
What is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by extremely painful, swollen joints reacting to accumulated uric acid crystal deposits in the joints. Sufferers often wake in the middle of the night complaining of pain in their big toe; indeed, about 75% of gout cases at some point affect the big toe.
Who gets Gout?
There are certain factors that place you at risk for developing this painful rheumatic disease:
- The use of diuretics
- Being male, age 45 or older
- Being a postmenopausal woman
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of gout are usually in one of four stages:
1. Asymptomatic. Elevated blood levels of uric acid, but no symptoms.
2. Acute. Also termed a "flare-up" or "attack," this stage usually lasts 4-10 days and is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Sudden and extreme joint pain
- Swelling of affected joint
- The joint feels hot, tender, and red
3. Intercritical stage. The symptom-free period between flare-ups. This can be six months to ten years.
4. Chronic. If left ignored and untreated, gout can advance to this debilitating stage. Symptoms include:
- Constant pain in joints with significant uric acid deposits in the cartilage, membranes between the bones, tendons, and soft tissues.
- The skin covering uric acid deposits may develop tophi, or pus-filled sores.
- Stiffness and limited range of motion in the joints
Ok, so you're getting older, and you may not have the most active lifestyle. And there's nothing wrong with enjoying some cold brews on the weekend! Could your swollen, red, throbbing toe really mean you have gout? There's only one way to find out: a doctor's diagnosis.
How do you Diagnose Gout?
Your doctor will perform a thorough physical evaluation and review your medical history to diagnose your gout. Sometimes the doctor will use a needle to draw fluid from the affected joint, and then inspect it under a polarized light microscope. This test is invasive but conclusive; if the results are positive, then it will be easier to treat and manage your symptoms. Your doctor may also perform a uric acid blood test. Hyperuricemia, or high levels of uric acid in the blood above 7.0 mg/dL, is a requisite of gout. Simply, if you have gout, you have hyperuricemia; it doesn't necessarily mean that if you have hyperuricemia, you will develop gout. Other blood tests your doctor may run include:
- Full blood count
- Renal function
- erythrocyte sedimentation rate
These tests will rule out the possibility of another form of arthritis as the cause of your symptoms. Only a doctor can diagnose your condition. It is your responsibility to pay attention to your symptoms and see your doctor promptly about anything abnormal. There are both pharmaceutical and natural treatments for gout; discuss with your doctor which is right for you.