Uric Acid and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Do You Have Gout?

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  • Difficult to Diagnose

    Difficult to Diagnose

    If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may also want your doctor to consider whether you may have gout.

    The symptoms of gout may appear similar to those of RA. This is particularly true in the later stages of gout. However, both the causes of these two diseases—and their treatments—are very different.

    Click through the slideshow to learn how to recognize each condition.

  • Under the Radar: Uric Acid

    Under the Radar: Uric Acid

    Both RA and gout are inflammatory diseases that cause pain and swelling in your joints.

    RA occurs when your immune system responds abnormally by attacking your joints, and sometimes your organs, rather than attacking foreign invaders like viruses that enter your body.

    Gout, on the other hand, is triggered when you have excess uric acid in your blood. This bodily waste product can end up in your joints, causing pain and inflammation.

  • How RA Starts

    How RA Starts

    The first signs of RA may be pain and stiffness in several of your joints at once. The pain may be acute from the start, or could come on more slowly over time.

    Certain joints are most likely to be affected by RA, including:

    • fingers (middle joints)
    • knuckles
    • wrists
    • toes (joints attaching toes to feet)
  • First Signs of Gout

    First Signs of Gout

    Gout may have different initial symptoms than RA. Symptoms can begin with very intense pain and inflammation in your big toe. In some cases, this symptom arises after you’ve been sick or suffered an injury.

    After this first sign of gout, you may then experience similar pain in other joints. Foot and knee joints commonly are affected by subsequent episodes of intense pain.

    In later stages of gout, the pain and swelling can become chronic.

  • Why Do You Get Gout?

    Why Do You Get Gout?

    Gout is caused by having too much uric acid in your bloodstream. But how does this happen?

    Excess uric acid can be the result of several factors, including:

    • drinking too much alcohol
    • eating foods that contain a substance called “purines,” which get broken down to become uric acid
    • taking certain medicines, like diuretics or aspirin
    • having kidney disease
    • being born with certain genetic predispositions
  • Slide 6: Why Is Gout Hard to Detect?

    Slide 6: Why Is Gout Hard to Detect?

    People with gout may have the same antibody that often appears in RA patients. This antibody is called a positive rheumatoid factor. Lumps that form around the joints can make it hard to distinguish gout from RA.

    In RA, these bumps or nodules are formed by joint inflammation. In gout, sodium urate can build up under your skin. When this happens, the resulting lumps can look a lot like RA swelling.


  • You Might Have Both

    You Might Have Both

    A 2012 Mayo Clinic study found that people who have RA also may develop gout.

    Prior to the study, researchers used to believe that you couldn’t have both conditions at the same time. This may be because RA used to be treated with aspirin. Aspirin helped RA patients eliminate uric acid, a telltale sign of gout.

    Lead study author Eric Matteson, MD, stated that knowing RA patients can have gout should lead to better management and treatment of both conditions.

  • Find Out

    Find Out

    RA and gout are very different conditions that involve distinct treatments. Yet, RA and other types of arthritis can mimic the symptoms of gout.

    Researchers now also know that some people may have both RA and gout, requiring specific treatment for each disease. When in doubt about gout, talk to your doctor and get on the path to managing your condition.