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Gout Treatment Overview

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Treating gout

Gout symptoms like sudden pain, redness, swelling, and stiffness in a joint (often the big toe), can sometimes be treated at home with anti-inflammatory medications. But gout can be very painful and often needs prescription medication, so it's recommended that you call your healthcare provider if you haven’t ever been treated for gout or are having an unusually bad flare up.

It’s important to start gout treatment as soon as possible after symptoms start because flares that last a while can lead to increased pain and joint damage over time.

  • Home gout treatment starts with anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen to keep swelling down. NSAIDs typically need to be taken for 5–7 days. You should start to feel better in 1–3 days.
  • You can also try icing the affected joint.
  • Drink plenty of water.

If severe pain is not improving after about 5–7 days, call your healthcare provider.

  • A doctor can help diagnose gout and prescribe medications that are generally more effective than OTC drugs.
  • These may include stronger NSAIDs or colchicine, which should relieve some of the pain within a day. But it may take several days for the pain to go away completely.
  • It’s also important to try to identify the triggers of your gout flares so you can avoid them in the future.
  • Triggers include dehydration, foods that contain purines, alcoholic and sugary drinks, and stress.

Gout flares are usually not an emergency. But you should get immediate care if a joint is hot and inflamed and you have a fever because these can be signs of an infection.

Medical tests & labs

Your doctor can often diagnose gout based on your symptoms. But there are several tests that your doctor may use to help diagnose gout, including:

  • Blood test to measure levels of uric acids
  • Ultrasound to look for urate crystals in the joint or in tophi (stone-like deposits)

Once diagnosed your doctor may prescribe one of several types of medications.

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