How Do Doctors Diagnose Gout?
- This is the most important diagnostic test. It is the ultimate method of being certain of a diagnosis of gouty arthritis, as opposed to other causes such as an infection in the joint.
- A needle is inserted into the joint to withdraw a sample of fluid for testing.
- The fluid is examined under a microscope to see if there are gout crystals or signs of a bacterial infection present. Sometimes other crystals can be found in the joint fluid, such as calcium pyrophosphate, which is caused by an entirely different condition called pseudogout ("like gout").
- Gouty arthritis is sometimes diagnosed based on the typical clinical presentation without a joint aspiration.
- A doctor may obtain a blood sample to look at cell counts, uric acid levels, kidney function, etc.
- Unfortunately, the level of uric acid in the blood cannot be reliably used to make a diagnosis of gout. It is normal in approximately 10% of people during an acute attack of gouty arthritis. Moreover, uric acid levels are elevated in 5%-8% of the general population, so the presence of an elevated level does not necessarily mean that gout is the cause of an inflamed joint. Interestingly, the uric acid is typically lowered during a flare of inflammatory gouty arthritis. Therefore, the optimal time to measure the uric acid is after a flare has resolved when acute inflammation is not present.
- X-rays are primarily used to assess underlying joint damage, especially in those who have had multiple episodes of gouty arthritis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2016
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