What Are Symptoms and Signs of Gout?
The first symptom of gouty arthritis is typically the sudden onset of a hot, red, swollen, stiff, painful joint. The most common joint involved is in the foot at the base of the big toe where swelling can be associated with severe tenderness, but almost any joint can be involved (for example, the knee, ankle, and small joints of the hands). In some people, the acute pain is so intense that even a bed sheet on the toe causes severe pain. Acute gouty arthritis at the base of the big toe is referred to as podagra.
Even without treatment, the first attacks stop spontaneously, typically within one to two weeks. While the pain and swelling completely disappear, gouty arthritis commonly returns in the same joint or another joint.
With time, attacks of gouty arthritis can occur more frequently and may last longer. While the first attacks usually involve only one or two joints, multiple joints can be involved simultaneously over time. It is important to note that unrecognizable (subclinical), potentially damaging inflammation in joints can occur between attacks of obvious flares of gouty arthritis.
Kidney stones are more frequent in people with gout.
Uric acid crystals can form outside joints. Collections of these crystals, complications known as tophi, can occur in the earlobe, elbow, and Achilles tendon (back of the ankle), or in other tissues. Typically, these tophi are not painful. However, tophi can be a valuable clue for the diagnosis as the crystals that form them can be removed with a small needle for diagnosis by microscopic examination. Microscopic evaluation of a tophus reveals uric acid crystals.