Which physical findings of the joints indicate gout?

Updated: Jan 26, 2021
  • Author: Bruce M Rothschild, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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The erythema over the joint may resemble cellulitis; the skin may desquamate as the attack subsides. The joint capsule becomes quickly swollen, resulting in a loss of range of motion of the involved joint.

Patients may be febrile during an acute gout attack, particularly if it is polyarticular. However, it is important to look for sites of infection that may have seeded the joint and caused an infectious arthritis resembling or coexisting with acute gouty arthritis.

Migratory polyarthritis is a rare presentation. Polyarticular gout commonly involves the small joints of the fingers and toes, as well as the knees. An inflammatory synovial effusion may be present. Uncommonly, acute gout may present as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Posterior interosseous nerve syndrome is a rare compression neuropathy that manifests as inability to extend the fingers actively. The syndrome has been reported in a patient with elbow swelling from an attack of pseudogout; in this case, treatment with intra-articular steroids led to resolution of the nerve palsy. [85]

Patients with established gout may have chronic arthritis. Affected joints evidence tenderness and swelling, with or without redness, warmth, or joint damage.

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