Acute gout is a condition in which the formation of urate crystals within a joint contribute to episodic and intense arthritic pain. The condition results from an unhealthy accumulation of uric acid within one's blood. Gout is a manageable condition that often requires the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prescription analgesics to alleviate discomfort, depending on the severity of symptom presentation. Individuals diagnosed with acute gout are often considered at an increased risk for developing a chronic presentation of the condition, which can lead to recurrent attacks and complications, including kidney failure.
Under normal conditions, uric acid is utilized by the body to metabolize purines that are essential to the proper functionality of many of the body's systems, such as digestion. Once the acid is metabolized, it is filtered through the kidneys and disposed of as waste in one’s urine. If the body produces too much uric acid and the kidneys are unable to eliminate the excess, it accumulates within the body and gathers in the joints. The pooling excess acid eventually solidifies, forming urate crystals that cause intense inflammation and discomfort.
A diagnosis of acute gout is usually made through tests performed on the individual's blood and the affected joint. Doctors perform blood tests to detect high levels of uric acid and other markers indicative of inflammation. A joint fluid test involves the extraction of fluid from the inflamed joint, which is then sent for analysis to confirm the presence of uric acid accumulation and crystal formation.
Individuals who develop acute gout experience severe discomfort that is concentrated within a single joint, such as the ankle or knee. The episodic bouts of intense pain generally last for up to 24 hours, presenting with noticeable inflammation and swelling. Once the initial episode subsides, it is not uncommon for the individual to experience residual discomfort within the affected joint.
Common treatment approaches for acute gout involve the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the implementation of dietary and lifestyle changes to avoid triggering additional gout attacks. Individuals with acute gout are often instructed to eat a low-fat diet and avoid consuming deep-fried foods and alcoholic beverages, which can contribute to uric acid production. When over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs do not alleviate acute gout discomfort, a prescription analgesic, such as colchicine, or corticosteroids may be given.
Without proper treatment, those who are initially diagnosed with acute gout can eventually develop chronic gout. In the absence of appropriate treatment or presence of chronic gout, individuals are at an increased risk for widespread urate crystal development in other joints. Additionally, the presence of persistent uric acid imbalance may adversely affect kidney function leading to chronic kidney failure.