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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of gout

Mō te porohau

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Gout is a form of arthritis caused by uric acid. It causes severe pain, swelling and redness in one or more of your joints.

Gout can come on suddenly and often starts at night. It often affects your big toe but can affect your knee, foot, wrist, ankle, hand and elbow joints.

Uric acid is a chemical mainly made in your body but some comes from purines in food. Your kidneys usually filter out the extra uric acid which then comes out in your wee (urine).

If you do not get rid of enough uric acid, the levels in your blood increase, causing gout. The high levels of uric acid in your blood can turn into tiny, sharp, glass-like crystals which collect in your joints. The crystals can also cause lumps under your skin called tophi.

If not treated, gout can damage your joints and kidneys.

Risk factors for gout

Diagnosing gout

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine the affected parts of your body. They can usually diagnose gout by examining your sore joint. They will arrange a blood test to measure your uric acid levels, either at the time of your attack, or later.

If it's not clear whether you have gout or a joint infection, you may need to have a procedure called a joint aspiration. This involves taking fluid out of the affected joint using a needle and syringe. The fluid is sent to a laboratory to be tested.

Treating gout

Gout is treated in three ways:

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On the next page: Self-care with gout

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

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