What Gout Looks Like

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • closeup of man's foot with gout
    Throbbing pain in the joint at the base of your big toe is a common sign of gout.
    Gout is a specific type of arthritis caused by uric acid crystals in your joints and other tissues. Your body normally creates uric acid as it breaks down purines. Purines are found in some foods and drinks. Normally, your kidneys filter uric acid out of your blood. However, if you have gout, your kidneys do not eliminate enough uric acid through urination. The most commonly affected area is the big toe joint, but other parts of the foot and body (such as the knees, wrists and elbows) can also be affected. Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men older than 40.
  • gout-patient-foot-swelling
    You may see lumps around the affected joint.
    Hard lumps of uric acid deposits, called tophi, can build up near the soft tissue lining the joint and are extremely painful. Tophi can become infected and lead to joint damage. Over time, this can result in chronic pain and disability.
  • x ray of feet showing gout
    X-rays show uric acid crystal buildup and signs of joint damage.
    Gout can be diagnosed by taking a sample of the fluid surrounding the affected joint, which is examined under the microscope to look for crystals. X-rays are used to see if a joint is damaged. For reasons not fully understood, uric acid levels in the blood sometimes go down when someone is having a gout attack, so a blood test at the time of an attack is not a reliable way to diagnose gout.
  • elbows of patient with gout
    Gout can affect other joints including the elbows and knees.
    If you've had gout before, you know the symptoms: warmth, tenderness, sensitivity, and a growing pinkish red color to the skin. You may even develop a fever and chills. Apply a cold compress, drink plenty of water, and rest the affected joint. Take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever as directed by your doctor, or take your prescribed medications as soon as possible.
  • man holding big toe and foot in pain
    Painful, swollen joints often flare up at night.
    Throbbing pain from gout can be so bad that even the touch of the softest sheet can be unbearable. A device called a blanket cradle can lift your bed covers off your feet and provide the relief you need.
  • itchy feet
    Eating right and exercising regularly can help lower your uric acid level and prevent flare-ups.
    If you have gout, your body may be overproducing uric acid or not effectively eliminating uric acid. What else can you do? Cut back on alcohol and high-purine foods that generate extra uric acid, such as organ and game meats, sweetbreads, and shellfish. Drink plenty of water and maintain a healthy body weight. People who experience frequent or severe gout attacks may benefit from taking preventive medications.
What Gout Looks Like
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 6
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