The first signs of gout are usually pain, swelling, and redness in the affected joint. Gout often starts in your big toe, and symptoms tend to come on suddenly and at night.

Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis due to the formation of uric acid crystals in your joints. Early stage gout symptoms come on suddenly, often at night, and may take you by surprise.

In this article, we’ll describe early gout symptoms and explain who’s most at risk for this condition. We’ll also provide treatment tips and discuss when to contact a healthcare professional.

Gout is characterized by joint pain that some people describe as excruciating. Gout pain often occurs at night. A common early symptom is severe pain in one joint, usually a big toe.

Early stage gout pain can also affect other joints, such as your:

Early stage gout pain may increase in intensity and remain severe for several hours. The pain will slowly start to lessen after that point. Still, you may feel minor pain or ongoing discomfort for several days or weeks after the initial attack.

Early stage gout symptoms usually include significant swelling in the affected joint and surrounding area.

If your big toe is affected, you will most likely have visible swelling on the outside of the toe joint where your toe connects to your foot. The swelling may make it hard for you to bend or move your toe.

Inflammation may cause the skin of the affected joint to look bright red and shiny. Your skin may also be tender and warm or hot to the touch.

In some instances, your skin may become so sensitive that you won’t be able to tolerate anything touching it, including socks or a blanket.

As your first gout flare-up subsides, the skin may become itchy and flaky. It may also peel off.

Who’s at risk of gout?

Gout is more common in males than in females. Women are more likely to develop gout postmenopause.

Risk factors for gout include:

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If you haven’t received a gout diagnosis and think you may be having a flare-up, see a healthcare professional. They can provide a diagnosis and offer treatments for symptoms such as severe pain.

Early stage gout symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and pseudogout. Treating these conditions requires different types of medication.

A prompt, accurate diagnosis will ensure that you get the proper treatment. It may also help you stave off future flare-ups.

If you’re experiencing a gout flare-up, you’ll probably want to get the quickest symptom relief possible and avoid future occurrences. A healthcare professional may prescribe anti-gout agents, such as colchicine, to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain quickly.

They may also prescribe oral corticosteroids or give you a corticosteroid injection directly in the affected joint.

Other prescription medications, such as allopurinol (Zyloprim, Lopurin) or febuxostat (Uloric), can help reduce uric acid levels.

At-home treatments that may help reduce early gout symptoms include:

What causes gout?

Gout is caused by the formation of tiny, sharp crystals in joints. These crystals result from a buildup of uric acid in the body.

Uric acid is a waste product that passes through your blood and kidneys, leaving your body through your urine. Not everyone with uric acid buildup (hyperuricemia) gets gout, but many people do.

How long does gout take to develop?

Gout doesn’t develop quickly, although there’s no specific or set timeframe. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia is the first stage of gout. You can have hyperuricemia for many years without it progressing to the next stage.

Most people with asymptomatic hyperuricemia do not go on to get gout at all. But if you have high uric acid levels for an extended period, your chances of gout progressing are higher.

What can be mistaken for gout?

Several conditions may present with similar symptoms to gout. They include:

What is the fastest way to flush out gout?

Experts recommend drinking plenty of water and other nonalcoholic fluids to flush out and dilute uric acid from your body. A healthcare professional may recommend drinking up to 16 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily.

A gout flare-up may come on suddenly and often occurs during sleep. Early symptoms of this condition are pain that gets more severe over several hours, swelling, and redness. Your skin may become warm and very sensitive.

See a healthcare professional if you have a gout flare-up. They can provide a diagnosis and suggest treatment options and lifestyle changes that can help reduce future flares.