Gout in the Elbow

What Causes Gout in the Elbow?

No joint in the upper extremities is more prone to gout than the elbow – and the condition can be particularly difficult to live with since everyday movement becomes difficult. Symptoms typically arrive in the elbow after an earlier episode in the toe, as patients experience painful soreness caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This waste product from digestion of some food and drinks is usually passed through urine, but can collect as sharp crystals in the elbow. The immune system then responds, causing a condition known medically as hyperuricemia. An inability to process uric acid is genetic, but is adversely impacted by poor diet, high cholesterol, kidney and heart disease, hypothyroidism, obesity and a range of medications including insulin and those meant to treat high blood pressure. Some episodes have also been linked to injuries or surgery on the elbow, too.

How Is Gout in the Elbow Diagnosed?

Gout symptoms of the elbow usually arrive quickly, and can continue for 3 to 10 days. Subsequent episodes may be separated by months, or perhaps years. Since symptoms and possible issues with uric-acid crystal build up only get worse with time, it’s important to see a medical professional early in the process. A doctor will perform a physical examination of the elbow, while also ordering X-rays and lab tests. Patients will be asked for a complete medical history and a list of medications, since both can have a direct impact on gout diagnosis. Fluid from an impacted elbow might be taken with a needle, in order to confirm the problem. Blood tests are also used to determine acid levels; they may also rule out the presence of other possible infections.

How Is Gout in the Elbow Treated?

Gout in the elbow doesn’t usually lead to surgery. Instead, a doctor will often first prescribe a round of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to decrease redness, pain and swelling. More stubborn cases might lead to a steroid shot or medication. Patients are typically encouraged to exercise more regularly, and are often directed to take part in dietary restrictions that focus on limiting things which impact uric-raise levels. Those include red meat, drinks containing fructose, alcoholic beverages and seafood. A surgical option is usually only required for long-term sufferers who have developed an accumulation of gout crystal called tophi.  This usually is located on the back side of the elbow and can get as big as a baseball. Surgery is often required for those who have suffered tendon and joint damage because of chronic crystal deposits in the elbow.

Treatment for gout in the elbow may require the assistance of a rheumatologist, a doctor that specializes in gout (as well as rheumatoid diseases) and placement on medicine to decrease the level of uric acid in the blood.