Gout is a painful, uncomfortable condition that is suffered by thousands of people in the UK. It is caused by an increased level of uric acid in your blood and gout is commonly felt as pain and swelling of the big toe.

Uric acid is a natural by-product of your metabolic system where excess salts and urates are excreted through your urine. When your uric acid level builds up it means that these waste products are not being effectively flushed out of your body.

Although gout symptoms are most commonly felt in the big toe, other joints can be affected by gout too, such as your knees or ankles. The build-up of uric acid in your body causes inflammation, which leads to pain in affected joints and most sufferers experience painful gout attacks during the night.

How to get a gout diagnosis

If you are experiencing unexplained pain in your big toe and you suspect it may be gout, then you need to see your GP. They can look at your medical history and give you a check-up, including taking blood samples to rule out any other causes and give you a proper diagnosis.

It could be that you have another underlying condition that can mimic the symptoms of gout, such as an infection or a sprained toe that will need to be ruled out and given a completely different treatment.

What causes gout?

In most cases, gout normally affects men over the age of 40 and post-menopausal women, but you could have a genetic predisposition to gout and if you have family members that also suffer from the condition, you may have more risk of developing it.

Quite often gout can develop as a short-term condition as a result of taking a course of medications such as water pills, or aspirin-containing medication. The condition may resolve itself once you have finished your course of medication.

There can be other factors that could be causing gout, such as:

• Excessive intake of sugar, carbohydrates, fruit juice, fresh fruit, and sweetened soft drinks
• Existing inflammatory health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
• Heavy alcohol consumption
• High purine diet

How gout is treated

The first thing your doctor will look at is any medications you take that could be the trigger. They may try switching you to an alternative medication to see if your gout improves.

Your doctor will also look at your diet to see if you are over-consuming gout-causing foods and drinks, such as fizzy drinks, fruit juice and foods high in sugar and carbohydrate. Eliminating these foods can help to drastically lower your uric acid levels.

If you are overweight, this can also contribute to inflammation in your body, so losing weight can help to reduce gout symptoms.

In most cases, gout can be treated using Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, such as ibuprofen, in the short-term. However, should your symptoms persist, you may be prescribed steroids in the form of tablets or injections.

If you have to wait a long time for a GP appointment, then you can book a private consultation with Dr Naveen Bhadauria, Consultant Rheumatologist, who practises private rheumatology from the prestigious and world-renowned clinic rooms of 25 Harley Street, as well as Spire London East and BMI Cavell.