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Gout attacks quickly, usually at night and most often in your big toe. The pain heightens about eight to 12 hours after onset. Gout symptoms can be extremely painful, and the first 24 hours are usually the worst. A gout attack typically lasts three to 10 days. However, the answer to the common question “How long does gout last?” is more complicated.
Remember that your gout problem has actually been brewing for quite some time, possibly years. Gout is caused by uric acid buildup in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product normally eliminated from your body by your kidneys. When your kidneys aren’t fully functioning and/or your body is producing too much uric acid for the kidneys to keep up, excess uric acid in the blood can become hard crystals that attach to joints and tendons, setting the stage for inflammation and painful gout.
With that in mind, answering the question “How long does gout last?” depends on three main factors.
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1. Your Gout Symptoms
First, you need to know how to define gout, which means you need to see a doctor, at least for the first attack. Gout symptoms—swelling of the joint, inflammation, redness, and sore skin—can be associated with other diseases, too.
If gout sounds a lot like arthritis, you’re right. Gout is a form of arthritis in that it’s an inflammation of the joints. And like arthritis, the real answer to “How long does gout last?” is, unfortunately, a lifetime. The good news is that medications and diet can make a difference in gout’s severity and frequency.
With treatment, individual episodes of a gout attack will be fewer and the length and severity lessened. Some gout sufferers never have a second episode. But untreated, gout will likely return.
2. Your At-Home Gout Treatment
Second, you can usually alleviate gout symptoms at home. The medicines your doctor prescribes are important in controlling gout over the long run, but once gout appears, your goal will be to ride it out via treatment and diet. It also helps to rest the joint as much as possible, applying cold packs as needed. Sometimes it’s even painful to wear a sock, so some gout sufferers cut a hole in the big toe area of their socks.
You should drink plenty of fluids—staying hydrated is important. And over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), like ibuprofen, can help ease the pain.
(For more information, see the U.S. National Library of Science article “What Can I Do on My Own to Prevent Gout Attacks.”)
3. Know Which Foods Cause Gout Attacks
Third, with or without medicine, you have to change your diet in order to lessen the number and severity of attacks. Learn which items in your diet cause flare-ups, and avoid foods that cause gout. Most gout patients would agree that avoiding foods that cause gout is far easier than enduring another flare up.
Among the foods known to cause gout are sugary soft drinks, beer, alcohol, tomatoes, beef, pork, lamb, liver, herring, mackerel, mussels, sardines, tuna, and smelt. We’d also be careful about our intake of bacon, turkey, salmon, trout, and haddock. (See “Foods to Avoid with Gout.”)
That “avoid” list might make you wonder what you can eat.
Safe “gout food” selections probably won’t surprise you: vegetables, low-fat dairy, cherries, and high-fiber carbohydrates are among the items that can help you avoid gout pain.
For more discussions of foods that work as part of a gout diet, see these posts:
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For more information on gout in general, please visit these posts: