Gout Tests & Diagnosis

Gout is a disease that shares many similar symptoms as other rheumatological disorders such as arthritis.  Therefore, it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis of the disease so that it can be properly treated and further progression can be slowed or halted completely.  A major step in diagnosing gout is ruling out other diseases to narrow the disease possibilities conclusively to gout.

Physical Exam

The first step in diagnosing gout is a physical exam with a doctor.  Medical history also plays a vital role in diagnoses.  During a doctor’s visit, affected arthritic joints are analyzed for swelling, sensitivity and pain tolerance.  Usually, gout patients suffer arthritis and severe pain in the big toe, so this symptom is a red flag for gout.  Also, gout patients tend to experience inflammation of joints that have endured osteoarthritis trauma or injury in the past.

Patients with gout develop symptoms of the disease, such as swelling and painful joints, very quickly.  While some diseases present symptoms that appear over days and weeks, symptoms of gout take minutes to hours to emerge.  The rapid onset of symptoms is also a red flag for gout, but these can be significantly affected by a person’s diet.

Blood Test

Doctors usually order a blood test on patients with gout-like symptoms in order to check uric acid levels in the blood.  Since gout is caused by an excessive amount uric acid (hyperuricemia), elevated levels of uric acid in the blood could be reflective of a gout diagnosis.  However, not all hyperuricemic patients have gout, so further diagnostic tests are recommended in order to narrow down and decide upon the proper disease diagnosis.

Synovial Fluid Examination

The most accurate diagnostic test for gout is the examination of synovial fluid, the liquid that surrounds joints and provides them with protection and nutrients.  Using a syringe to draw out fluid from the affected area, synovial fluid is obtained and sent to a laboratory for testing.  Upon analysis of the fluid, a clearer diagnosis of gout can be made.  Aspiration of synovial fluid can be done to reduce pain pressure and swelling on the issue surrounding the aching joint for those gout patients suffering arthritic joints.

Urinalysis

Collecting and testing urine for uric acid levels excreted by the body via urination gives a clue as to a gout diagnosis.  This test is not conclusive on its own, but it helps to identify whether a patient may or may not have gout.  Gout patients tend to have higher than normal outputs of uric acid in their urine.  Usually, urine is collected over a twenty-four hour span for a more accurate detection of uric acid output throughout the day.

X-Ray Imaging

X-Rays usually do not reveal any joint damage in mild cases or early stages of gout.  However, they are useful in detecting problems, such as tophi, in chronic stages.  X-Rays can efficiently follow the progression of the disease and detect any decline in joint wellness before a physical examination ever could.

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