Medical Q&As

Gout treatment - how long?

What is the most effective treatment for gout and how long will I need to treat the condition?

Acute gout typically affects the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe, which means the joint at the base of the big toe. However, other joints such as the knee can be affected. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by measuring the level of uric acid in the blood. If the level of uric acid is high some of that chemical crystallises in the joint giving rise to the acute inflammation that we recognise as gout. Gout can be considered to be a form of acute arthritis that is chemically induced. If the pain is severe the GP may administer an intramuscular injection of an anti-inflammatory drug. I make this point to illustrate that the pain from gout can be severe because gout sufferers are often the butt of insensitive jokes from others who do not appreciate just how painful it can be. However, most cases can be treated with oral anti-inflammatory medication. Painkillers alone are not sufficient. A drug with anti-inflammatory properties is needed in order to suppress the active inflammation within the joint. It is also helpful to rest the foot and keep it elevated in order to assist the reduction of swelling in the foot. Some people need to make an improvised bed cage to keep the weight of blankets or duvets off the foot when trying to sleep at night. Most cases of gout subside within a week. The key to effective treatment is to initiate anti-inflammatories promptly. Some people suffer from recurrent gout and they may need prophylactic medication in order to prevent attacks from recurring. Frequently recurring attacks of gout can result in significant damage to the joint surfaces and can result in chronic arthritis.