6 Symptoms Never to Ignore With Gout

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Gout is the most common kind of inflammatory arthritis, affecting some 8 million Americans. Gout attacks occur when uric acid builds up in the body and forms crystals in the joints, causing severe pain along with redness, swelling and tenderness. Certain symptoms associated with gout can indicate complications that should be assessed by a doctor.

  • 1
    Hard bumps under your skin
    Doctor examining patient's leg

    Tophi are clumps of uric acid crystals that harden under your skin. They can form on your fingers, hands, feet, ankles or other joints, and also are common on the ears. Tophi may not be painful, but they can damage joints and surrounding tissue if left untreated. If they are large enough, they can burst through the skin. Tophi are also prone to infection, which your doctor can treat with antibiotics. If necessary, tophi can be surgically removed.

  • 2
    Pain in side, lower abdomen, or groin
    Man with side pain

    As we age, our kidneys can’t process as much uric acid as they did when we were younger. Over time, gout can lead to kidney stones or kidney disease. Kidney stones can cause sharp pain below the ribs, side, back and into the groin as they move through your body, and the pain may come in waves. You may not have symptoms of kidney disease until your kidneys are not functioning well. If you have gout and experience pain in these areas—even if you are not having a gout attack—call your doctor.

  • 3
    Pain when urinating

    Gout causes one particular kind of kidney stone, when uric acid crystals form small hard masses in the kidneys. If the stone becomes lodged in the ureter as your body tries to pass it, it can prevent you from urinating, which can be very painful. Kidney stones can also lead to blood in the urine, so if you see a red or brown tint in your urine, or it smells bad or looks cloudy, it could be a gout-related kidney stone.

  • 4
    High fever
    senior Hispanic woman checking her temperature and looking at thermometer with concern on her face

    A gout attack may come with a mild fever and a feeling of being unwell, but in cases of severe gout, the fever can be connected to joint erosion and infection. If you have a fever of over 100°F during a gout attack and the joint feels very hot and inflamed, call your doctor immediately. It’s important to treat the infection quickly so it doesn’t spread elsewhere in your body.

  • 5
    Daytime sleepiness
    Young Caucasian man at computer wiping eyes in fatigue

    People with sleep apnea briefly stop breathing every so often while they sleep. Pauses in breathing lower the amount of oxygen in the blood, which raises uric acid levels. That makes people with sleep apnea prone to gout. If you feel tired and unable to concentrate during the day, see your doctor. Sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems among other health conditions, so it’s important to address it.

  • 6
    Back or neck pain

    If you have unexplained back or neck pain, or tingling or numbness in an arm or leg, there’s a small chance you have spinal gout. If gout develops in the spinal column, it can lead to pinched nerves and damaged vertebrae. There are many causes of back pain; but, if you have had gout attacks in other joints and you experience back pain, talk to your doctor. They can treat the high uric acid levels that cause the symptoms. If necessary, there are surgical procedures to remove tophi that may press on the spinal cord and nerve roots causing pain, numbness and even paralysis.

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  1. Goutful. American Kidney Fund. https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/complications/gout/complications-of-gout/
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  3. 8 Gout Complications You Need to Know About. Creaky Joints. https://creakyjoints.org/about-arthritis/gout/gout-symptoms/gout-complications/
  4. What Are the Complications of Gout? Medscape .https://www.medscape.com/answers/329958-10203/what-are-the-complications-of-gout
  5. Elgafy H, Liu X, Herron J. Spinal gout: A review with case illustration. World J Orthop. 2016;7(11):766-775. Published 2016 Nov 18. doi:10.5312/wjo.v7.i11.766. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5112347/
  6. Gout symptoms. Stanford Health Care. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/bones-joints-and-muscles/gout/symptoms.html 

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 19
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