Diagnosis is confirmed clinically by the visualization of the characteristic crystals in joint fluid. Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, or colchicine improves symptoms. Once the acute attack has subsided, levels of uric acid are usually lowered via lifestyle changes, and in those with frequent attacks allopurinol or probenicid provide long-term prevention.
Gout has increased in frequency in recent decades affecting approximately 1–2% of the Western population at some point in their lives. The increase is believed to be due to increasing risk factors in the population, such as metabolic syndrome, longer life expectancy and changes in diet. Gout was historically known as "the disease of kings" or "rich man's disease".
Signs and symptoms
Gout can present in a number of ways, although the most usual is a recurrent attack of acute inflammatory arthritis (a red, tender, hot, swollen joint). The metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is affected most often, accounting for half of cases. Other joints, such as the heels, knees, wrists and fingers, may also be affected. Joint pain usually begins over 2–4 hours and during the night. The reason for onset at night is due to the lower body temperature then. Other symptoms that may occur along with the joint pain include fatigue and a high fever.
Long-standing elevated uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) may result in other symptomatology, including hard, painless deposits of uric acid crystals known as tophi. Extensive tophi may lead to chronic arthritis due to bone erosion. Elevated levels of uric acid may also lead to crystals precipitating in the kidneys, resulting in stone formation and subsequent urate nephropathy.