Gout history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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The classic picture of an acute gouty attack, is sudden, excruciating, unexpected and burning pain. There will also be swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness in the joint. In approximately 75% of first episodes, gout usually attacks the big toe.


The classic picture is of excruciating, sudden, unexpected, burning pain, swelling, redness, warmness and stiffness in the joint. Low-grade fever may also be present. The patient usually suffers from two sources of pain. The crystals inside the joint cause intense pain whenever the affected area is moved. The inflammation of the tissues around the joint also causes the skin to be swollen, tender and sore if it is even slightly touched. For example, a blanket or even the lightest sheet draping over the affected area could cause extreme pain.

Gout usually attacks the big toe (approximately 75 percent of first attacks); however, it also can affect other joints such as the ankle, heel, instep, knee, wrist, elbow, fingers, and spine. In some cases, the condition may appear in the joints of small toes that have become immobile due to impact injury earlier in life, causing poor blood circulation that leads to gout.

Patients with longstanding hyperuricemia (see below) can have uric acid crystal deposits called tophi (singular: tophus) in other tissues such as the helix of the ear. Uric acid stones can form as one kind of kidney stone in some common occasions.

Clinical Stages

  • Asymptomatic hyperuricemia
  • Acute gouty arthritis
  • Intercritical gout
  • Chronic tophaceous gout.