Gout Diagnosis

In making a diagnosis of gout, your healthcare provider will ask a number of questions about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also perform a physical exam. Other tests and procedures include a blood test to see the levels of uric acid in the blood, drawing a sample of synovial fluid, and an examination of chalky sodium urate deposits (tophi) around joints.

How Is Gout Diagnosed?

Gout may be difficult for healthcare providers to diagnose because the symptoms of gout may be vague, and they often mimic other conditions. Although most people with gout have high blood levels of uric acid (hyperuricemia) at some time during the course of their disease, it may not be present during an acute gout attack. In addition, having hyperuricemia alone does not mean that a person will get gout. In fact, most people with hyperuricemia do not develop the disease.

 

Therefore, in order to make a gout diagnosis, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions (known as a medical history). Some of these may include questions about:

 
  • Your current symptoms
  • Other medical conditions you have
  • Medications you may be taking.

 

He or she will also perform a physical exam looking for signs and symptoms of gout. If the healthcare provider believes that gout is a possibility, then he or she may recommend certain tests and procedures.

 

Test and Procedures Used for Diagnosing Gout

There are several tests and/or procedures that a healthcare provider will recommend to confirm a gout diagnosis. One of these tests is a blood test to see the levels of uric acid in the blood. Another one is a urine test to see how much uric acid is being removed from the body.

 

He or she may confirm a diagnosis of gout by inserting a needle into an inflamed joint and drawing a sample of synovial fluid, the substance that lubricates a joint. A laboratory technician places some of the fluid on a slide and looks for monosodium urate crystals under a microscope. Their absence, however, does not completely rule out the diagnosis.

 

The healthcare provider may also find it helpful to examine chalky sodium urate deposits (tophi) around joints to diagnose gout. Gout attacks may mimic joint infections, and a healthcare provider who suspects a joint infection (rather than gout) may check for the presence of bacteria.

 
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