How is Gout Treated?
Gout is a common form of arthritis characterized by sudden, severe attacks of swelling, pain, redness, and tenderness in one or more joints—most often the big toe. This condition occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joint, causing the symptoms.
Gout can be very painful and disabling, but thankfully, it’s highly treatable in almost all cases. Before discussing treatment options, let’s first review how gout is diagnosed.
How is gout diagnosed?
In a clear-cut case, a doctor can diagnose gout based on your symptoms and the appearance of the affected joint, however, some cases aren’t so obvious. Doctors may need to order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, including:
- Joint fluid test: A needle is used to draw fluid from the affected joint. This fluid is viewed under a microscope to look for urate crystals.
- Dual-energy computerized tomography (DECT): DECT scans use multiple X-rays of different strengths to produce an image that shows urate crystals in joints. This test is a non-invasive alternative to a joint fluid test and has proven to be effective in diagnosing challenging cases of gout.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to detect urate crystals in the joints.
- Blood test: Your doctor may suggest a blood test to measure uric acid levels in your blood. This test, however, is not always accurate.
How is gout treated?
As we mentioned above, gout is highly treatable with medication and lifestyle changes. Gout medications focus on addressing two different problems: 1) reducing inflammation and pain associated with gout attacks and 2) preventing gout complications by lowering the amount of uric acid in the blood. Which type of medication is right for you depends on the severity of your symptoms and how frequently you experience gout.
Medications that treat gout attacks
The following drugs are used to treat gout flares:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications help reduce inflammation and pain. NSAIDs are available over the counter as Advil®, Motrin IB®, Aleve®, and other options.
- Colchicine: This drug helps reduce inflammation and pain during gout attacks.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroid drugs, such as prednisone, offer powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They may be taken in pill form or injected into the joint.
Medications that prevent gout complications
Your doctor may recommend medication to lower your body’s uric acid level if:
- You experience several gout attacks per year
- Your gout attacks are particularly painful
- You already have evidence of joint damage from gout on X-rays
- You have tophi (hard, visible lumps made of uric acid crystals), chronic kidney disease, or kidney stones
The following medications may be used to prevent gout-related complications caused by high uric acid levels:
- Medications that block uric acid production: Drugs such as allopurinol (Aloprim®, Lopurin®, Zyloprim®) and febuxostat (Uloric®) help limit the amount of uric acid your body makes.
- Medications that improve uric acid removal: Drugs such as probenecid (Probalan®) help improve your kidneys’ ability to remove uric acid from your body.
Lifestyle treatments for gout
In addition to taking your prescribed medication, gout can also be managed through lifestyle choices. Here are some lifestyle changes to consider to reduce your symptoms and the frequency of recurrent gout attacks:
- Limit alcohol and drinks sweetened with fructose (fruit sugar)
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid foods high in purines, including red meat, organ meats, anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
New gout treatments on the horizon
New therapies are currently being studied that show great promise for the effective treatment of gout. While these new therapies are not yet available to the public, those with gout can access them through clinical trials. Clinical trials recruit patients who are interested in new therapies and supporting research. These trials are free to participants and may include payment for time and travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about paid research studies, sign up with Triad Clinical Trials today. The team at Triad Clinical Trials is medical dedicated to research and to taking great care of our study patients.