Gout Flare-Up

Gout Summary
  • Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that is triggered when there is too much uric acid in the blood. This can cause swelling and inflammation in the joints, especially the big toe.
  • A gout flare-up can develop at any point in time and can cause severe symptoms of discomfort, including intense pain and limited ability to use the affected joints.
  • Although treatment for gout isn’t always necessary, leaving this condition untreated can cause permanent damage to your joints and prolong the duration of an attack.
  • The treatment options for gout include using a combination of prescription medication and lifestyle changes to manage and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Gout is a fairly common medical condition that affects around 9.2 million adults in the United States.

It’s characterized by high levels of certain chemicals in the blood that build up and cause inflammatory symptoms in the body.

Gout can be a painful and difficult condition to deal with, especially since there is currently no cure and individuals have to deal with a lifetime diagnosis.

However, there are steps you can take to make even the worst gout flare-ups more manageable.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the causes of gout flare-ups, how long they last, and what you can do to lessen their impact on your life.

What is Gout?

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops when a high level of uric acid — the chemical that breaks down food in the body — builds up in the blood.

Gout is quite painful, usually affecting the joints in the feet and big toes.

Gout is a lifelong condition that can flare up at any point in time, depending on several lifestyle choices that affect the uric acid level in the body.

Key Point: Who is Most at Risk of Developing Gout?

Although it can affect anyone in their lifetime, certain groups of people are more at risk of developing gout.

According to the American Kidney Fund (AKF), these include:

  • Adult men aged between 30-50 years old
  • Women who have gone through menopause
  • Individuals who are overweight
  • People who consume a lot of alcohol
  • People who follow diets that are rich in purines — another chemical compound that causes gout — like red meat and seafood
  • Patients who’ve had an organ transplant
  • Individuals who have a family history of gout
  • People who are frequently exposed to lead

What Happens When You Experience a Gout Flare-Up?

A gout flare-up occurs if you suddenly experience severe joint pain. Discomfort usually affects the big toe, but pain can also spread to the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, and knees.

The frequency of gout flare-ups will usually depend on how often you’re exposed to certain triggers — like food or other lifestyle factors.

What are the symptoms of a gout flare-up?

A gout flare-up is usually easily recognizable because of its distinct symptoms. These include:

  • Severe, throbbing pain in the feet

  • Swelling in the big toe

  • Intense joint pain

  • Body aches

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Limited range of motion of the affected joint

A woman in magenta workout pants holds her toes during a painful gout attack.

How Long Does a Gout Flare-Up Last?

Experiencing a flare-up of gout can be extremely painful.It can also significantly impact the quality of your life if left untreated.

Symptoms will usually be present for the duration of the flare-up, reaching their peak around 12-24 hours after the onset.

It can take up to two weeks to fully recover from a gout flare-up, with or without treatment.

Key Point: How Can You Take Care of Yourself During a Chronic Gout Flare-Up?

A gout flare-up can be an extremely uncomfortable and painful experience to deal with.

During these episodes, it’s important to do things to alleviate your gout pain and encourage kidney function — an essential component in controlling uric acid levels.

Here are some self-care practices you can follow at home to take care of yourself:

  • Increase your fluid intake
  • Don’t resist the urge to urinate
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication
  • Take Epsom salt baths
  • Elevate and place an ice pack on painful joints
  • Eat foods that encourage lower uric acid levels, like ginger and celery
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and eating red meat

Gout Flare-Up: How Long Does It Last?

The length of time your gout flare-up will last likely depends on whether or not you’re following a treatment plan for gout. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

Gout flare-up duration without treatment

A gout flare-up that occurs while you’re not following a treatment plan can last up to two weeks. During this time, gout symptoms may become severe and even feel unbearable.

Without following a treatment plan, there’s no way to alleviate the symptoms of a gout attack, and you’ll have to wait for it to resolve on its own.

It may also take an additional 14 days for your body to fully recover from the attack.

Gout flare-up duration with treatment

Normal gout flare-ups tend to peak within 12-24 hours of their onset.

A professional treatment plan can ensure that the flare-up lasts only about three days. It can also help the body to recover faster following a gout attack.

Treatment plans also ensure that you have a method of alleviating severe symptoms like pain and swelling, making it more manageable to live with gout.

Key Point: Do You Need to Get Treatment for Gout?

It’s highly recommended to seek medical treatment for gout. If this condition is left untreated, it can erode and destroy joints, leaving you with permanent damage.

A uric acid buildup in the blood that isn’t dealt with can also lead to uric acid crystals forming in the urinary tract. This can increase a person’s risk of developing kidney stones.

Symptoms can also become extremely difficult to manage, often severely impacting a person’s ability to use the affected joints.

Without treatment, people who suffer from gout cannot minimize this medical condition's impact on their lives.

That’s why it’s generally agreed upon that you should see your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have gout.

What Are the Treatment Options for a Gout Flare-Up?

There is currently no cure for gout. However, symptoms and flare-ups can be managed through lifelong treatment that usually includes a number of dietary and lifestyle changes.

Let’s take a look at a few more treatment options.

Prescription medication

The first course of action for treating gout flare-ups is by using different prescription medications.

Your healthcare provider may suggest you take the following medication during a flare-up:

A woman in a light aqua sweater holding a few pills in her hand. She has a watch on her left wrist.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

These are aspirin-like oral medications that can help reduce pain and inflammation in affected joints. NSAIDs can also be used to treat acute symptoms of a gout attack.

It’s important to note that high doses of NSAIDs can cause other medical issues — like stomach ulcers or diarrhea — if taken over a prolonged period of time.

Some people are also unable to take NSAIDs because of health complications like impaired kidney function.

That’s why it’s always recommended to consult your doctor and follow a professional gout flare up treatment plan. This will prevent you from using medication that could worsen your condition.


Oral or injected corticosteroids may be recommended to people who are unable to tolerate or use NSAIDs.

This medication has the same effect as NSAIDs and can be used to treat acute gout flare-up symptoms like severe pain or inflammation.

Studies have suggested that corticosteroids are just as effective as NSAIDs and may even be a safer alternative.

Corticosteroids also have fewer long-term side effects with almost no significant adverse reactions recorded when used to treat gout.


This medication is a common treatment for preventing and managing gout attacks.

Colchicine effectively decreases swelling caused by flare-ups and can also reduce excess uric acid crystals that can develop in the blood.

This can help decrease the risk of developing secondary medical conditions like kidney stones.

It’s important to note that colchicine is not a pain reliever and shouldn’t be used to treat bouts of inflammation or discomfort.

Home remedies

In combination with medical treatments, incorporating home remedies into your routine may also help you should your gout flare up.

These may include:

  • Using ice and elevating the affected joints

  • Increasing your fluid intake — especially water — to protect your kidneys

  • Avoiding alcoholic beverages

  • Eating a healthy diet

The CDC also recommends staying active to protect the joints and trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Gout diet

One of the best things you can do to avoid frequent gout flare-ups is to adjust your diet.

Certain foods that have high purine levels can trigger an increase in uric acid and lead to a gout flare-up.

If you struggle with gout, it’s often recommended that you follow a low-purine diet and avoid the following:

  • Red meat

  • Animal organs

  • Alcohol

  • Certain types of seafood—like shellfish, anchovies, or tuna

You can also try following the DASH or Mediterranean diet, both of which involve eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats.

A man hands holds a salad with fruits, vegetables, and legumes such as asparagus, blackberries, cucumbers, and beans.

When Should You See a Doctor About Gout Flare-Ups?

Gout flare-ups can become a serious medical problem if left untreated, even contributing to conditions like chronic kidney disease.

That’s why it’s recommended to make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have gout.

They will be able to properly diagnose your condition and recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms.

Where Can I Learn More About Gout and Other Similar Medical Conditions?

If you’re experiencing or are concerned about any of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article, LifeMD can help. Head over to LifeMD.com to schedule a telehealth appointment with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner.

Dr. Anthony Puopolo

Dr. Puopolo holds a B.A. in Biology from Tufts University, M.A. in Biology from Boston University, and Doctor of Medicine from the Boston University School of Medicine. He also completed a Family Medicine and Psychiatry residency program in the U.S. Army.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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