Usually, physicians can diagnose gout based on the physical examination and medical history (the patient's description of symptoms and other information). Doctors can also administer a test that measures the level of uric acid in the blood. While normal uric acid levels don't necessarily rule out gout and high levels don't confirm it, the presence of hyperuricemia increases the likelihood of gout. The development of a tophus can confirm the diagnosis of gout. The most definitive way to diagnose gout is to take a sample of fluid from the joint and test it for urate crystals.
The goals of treatment for gout consist of alleviating pain, avoiding severe attacks in the future, and preventing long-term joint damage. In addition to taking pain medications as prescribed by their doctors, people having gout attacks are encouraged to rest and to increase the amount of fluids that they drink.
indomethacin (Indocin). In some cases, these drugs can aggravate a peptic ulcer or existing kidney disease and cannot be used. Doctors sometimes also use colchicine (Colbenemid), especially in cases where nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs cannot be used. Colchicine may cause diarrhea, which tends to go away once the patient stops taking it. Corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (Acthar) may be given orally or may be injected directly into the joint for a more concentrated effect. While all of these drugs have the potential to cause side effects, they are used for only about 48 hours and are not likely to cause major problems. However, aspirin and closely related drugs (salicylates) should be avoided because they can ultimately worsen gout.
Once an acute attack has been successfully treated, doctors try to prevent future attacks of gout and long-term joint damage by lowering uric acid levels in the blood. There are two types of drugs for correcting hyperuricemia. Uricosuric drugs, such as probenecid (Benemid) and sulfinpyrazone (Anturane), lower the levels of urate in the blood by increasing its removal from the body (excretion) through the urine. These drugs may promote the formation of kidney stones, and they may not work for all patients, especially those with kidney disease. Allopurinol (Zyloprim), a type of drug called a xanthine-oxidase inhibitor, blocks the production of urate in the body, and can dissolve kidney stones as well as treating gout. The potential side effects of allopurinol include rash, a skin condition known as dermatitis, and liver dysfunction. Once people begin taking these medications, they must take them for life or the gout will continue to return.