Gout is a type of arthritis that causes pain similar to osteoarthritis, though there are some distinct differences. It’s caused by high uric acid buildup in the blood. Uric acid then accumulates in joints, causing inflammation with discomfort and pain.
If you have gout, you know the signs that a flare-up is on the way. There’s nothing you can do to stop an attack once it starts, but you can ease some of the symptoms at home. Some natural remedies may help. However, if your gout pain is very sudden or intense, contact your doctor before trying any of the remedies below.
Warning Signs of a Gout Flare-Up
Some people with gout, also known as gouty arthritis, say an attack begins with a burning, itching, or tingling feeling in a joint maybe an hour or two before the flare-up starts. The joint may feel a little stiff or a bit sore. Not long after, the telltale signs of gout begin. If you get repeated attacks, you’ll learn your body’s signals that one is about to begin.
Sometimes, people with gout have no early signs that a flare is about to start. They may just wake up in the middle of the night with a very painful joint.
When the flare starts, most people have redness, swelling, and severe pain, usually in one joint. The most common place for gout is the base of the big toe, but it can happen in other joints such as the elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, and instep.
Home Care for a Gout Flare-Up
If your doctor has diagnosed you with gout and given you medicine for a flare-up, take the medicine as directed when you know you’re having one. In most cases, that will probably be as soon as the first signs begin.
Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as celecoxib, indomethacin, meloxicam, or sulindac or suggest you take over-the-counter NSAIDs, like naproxen or ibuprofen. Depending on your medical history, your doctor may prescribe steroids or other medicines to reduce inflammation, such as colchicine (Colcrys).
In some cases, you already may be taking medicine like colchicine to prevent gout flare-ups. Your doctor may have also suggested:
- Allopurinol (Aloprim, Lopurin, Zyloprim)
- Anakinra (Kineret)
- Canakinumab (Ilaris Ilaris Ilaris)
- Lesinurad (Zurampic)
- Pegloticase (Krystexxa)
- Probenecid (Probalan)
- Rasburicase (Elitek)
If you can’t take allopurinol or it is not effective, your doctor may prescribe febuxostat (Uloric). It should be used with caution, however, because it has been linked to increased risk of death from heart disease and from other causes.
If you’ve been taking preventive gout medicine for a long time and you’re having flares for the first time in a while, call your doctor. They may talk to you about changing your dosage or your medicine.
Pain Relief Without Medicine
Use cold: If your pain isn’t too bad, try cold packs or compresses on the joint to lower inflammation and soothe the ache. Wrap ice in a thin towel and apply it to the joint for up to 20 minutes several times a day. Do not apply ice to your hands or feet if you have nerve problems from diabetes or other causes.
Rest the joint: It’s a good idea to rest it until the pain eases up. You probably won’t want to move it much anyway. If you can, raise the joint on a pillow or other soft object.
Watch what you eat and drink: Foods that are high in substances called purines, such as some seafood, organ meats like liver, and fatty foods, can raise the uric acid in your blood even more. So can fructose-sweetened drinks and alcohol — especially beer.
Read also: Best Diets For People With Diabetes
When to Get Help for a Gout Flare
It’s always a good idea to let your doctor know that you are having a flare. Sometimes, you may need to follow up to make sure your treatment plan is working or if your symptoms don’t improve. Call your doctor if:
This is your first flare-up: There are several other conditions, such as a joint infection, that have some of the same symptoms as gout attacks.
You have a high fever and chills: Gout attack symptoms may include a mild fever, but a higher temperature may be a sign of an infection.
Your symptoms don’t get any better after 48 hours or don’t end after about a week: If you don’t start to feel somewhat better after a few days, call your doctor. They may suggest a different treatment. Most gout attacks will go away by themselves in several weeks, even without treatment.
Top Natural remedies for Gout
- Nettle Tea
- Epsom salts
- Milk Thistle
- Celery Seed
Duration of flare-ups with treatment
According to Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, a gout flare-up typically reaches its peak within 12–24 hours of the initial onset. However, this period will vary depending on the person’s response to treatment and their general health. Treatment should lead the symptoms to return to normal within a few days of the flare-up.
Duration of flare-ups without treatment
As treatment shortens the duration of flare-ups, they typically last for about 7–14 days without it. Treatment can also reduce symptom severity. A 2014 review of colchicine found that people using this treatment were 25% more likely to report a 50% reduction in pain during a flare-up than those receiving a placebo. However, colchicine can cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Gout attacks can be painful and debilitating, but there are various methods you can use to treat them at home. By making lifestyle changes, such as reducing purine–rich foods from your diet, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce the risk of gout attacks.
Additionally, applying ice to the affected area, taking over–the–counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and drinking cherry juice or other natural remedies can help to reduce pain and inflammation. If you find that home remedies are not providing relief, it is important to consult your doctor to ensure you receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.