Gout in the Elbow

Gout and Elbows

How Gout Can Affect Your Elbow and Arm

Gout in the elbow is not that common but for gout sufferers since for most it begins and remains concentrated in the big toe or feet area when suffering an inflammatory attack. For some, as the disease progresses over the years, it can move up the body and affect the knees, arms, fingers and elbows. A first gout attack in the elbow is extremely rare so usually gout in the elbow will occur to somebody that has lived with gout after 10 to 15 years. Oftentimes, an attack will combine another joint like the big toe and elbow or big toe and knee.

The elbow is comprised of three bones and two of those bones belong to the forearm called the radius and ulna. The third bone is called the humerus which is also the largest and is the only bone in the upper arm. The humerus is very important to you because it is responsible for lifting, throwing and writing. So uric acid crystals will typically deposit in the middle where are all three bones connect in the joint capsule of the elbow.

A gout attack in the elbow will also happen unexpectedly, you will wake up in the morning to find that your elbow is suddenly swollen and painful. You will experience severe pain and tenderness, just like the big toe, your elbow will be extremely sensitive to any pressure even a bed sheet. Your elbow may appear red, warm and swollen as if it’s puffed up. Mobility in your arm will obviously be limited. The skin on your elbow may be peeling and flaking due to the redness. It might feel itchy as well.

Doctor may prescribe colchicine or NSAIDs to get rid of the pain and inflammation and put you on long term uric acid management drug like allopurinol to avoid any future attacks.

 

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The Difference Between Gout and Bursitis

Another condition which can affect the elbow and might be confused for gout is bursitis. They both have similar symptoms and that is why it’s important to visit your doctor if you get an inflamed elbow to be properly diagnosed and treated. Bursitis is a condition that affects the small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones (called the bursa), tendons and muscles near the joints. When the small sacs get inflamed, bursitis occurs near joints that perform frequent repetitive motion like the knee, hip, shoulder, heel and elbow. Furthermore, bursitis is a condition that mostly needs rest to treat it.

Other conditions that might make you think it’s gout but might be something else; nerve compression can cause pain in the elbow which are caused by the squashing or trapping of nerves. Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis that affects the elbow joint can lead to stiffness, pain and inflammation of the elbow and arm. So watch out for that!

Do take note that people suffering from gout, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes have a higher risk of developing bursitis. Also take note that a complication of bursitis that sometimes affects the big toe is when a bunion develops. A bunion is a painful swelling on the first joint of the big toe. Usually a bony bump will appear. It forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. This too can be confused for gout and it’s very important to check it out.

In some cases, surgery can be used to treat the joints in the elbow from gout. If medical treatment, diet and other treatments have failed and there is damage in the elbow joint, surgery may be required. There are three main surgeries for treating gout in the elbow:

  • Surgery for Tophi removal in advanced cases of gout in the elbow.
  • Surgery for fusion of the elbow joints to fuse them back together from destruction and damage.
  • Surgery for elbow joint replacement if joint is beyond repair and must be replaced entirely with an artificial joint.

In conclusion, one thing is for sure. If you get elbow gout, it usually means that your gout treatment has not worked or maybe you have simply ignored treatment. This should ring an alarm bell and wake you up into taking the necessary lifestyle, dietary and medical changes in your life.

Posted by Spiro Koulouris

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4 Comments

  • George G.

    Reply Reply February 23, 2017

    I’m 57 year old male. Very sports minded. Through my 40’s I played basketball everyday. I have been very healthy all my life. I recently been diagnosed as having arthritic gout. It all started about 7 months ago. I weigh 288 Lbs at 6 feet tall. I was considered to be obese. So I decided to lose weight. In about 25 days I lost 46 lbs. That’s when I started to experience these aches and pains all over my body, which I have never experienced before. And then the Friday before the Super Bowl, something happened to me. All day I could not stand or put any pressure on my right leg because my right knee was in so much excruciating pain, that the normal aches and pains all over my body were child’s play compare to my knee. I watched the Super Bowl with a lot of pain.

    The next day I went to see a my doctor, he checked my knee, he noted the swelling and the heat that my knee was giving away. I asked if he though if it was gout and he said most definite. I asked him how to get rid of it? Just what I’m been doing losing weight, watching my diet, exercising. But then he said sometimes gout comes back by doing the right things. I did not understand that statement.

    Well I went home, I did some research on gout. I came across an article about gout and how rapid weight loss can create gout, because proteins and carbohydrates dilute or exit the body faster than uric acid. This causes uric acid to stay behind and deposit inside the joints. Well my weight is down to 240 and it’s been there for about 3 there months. Then I started to stretch out the aches and pains out I have learned how it works quite well. But the problem is the aches and pains come at different rates for different joints of different parts of the body.

    These aches and pains are not very painful it’s almost more of a stiffness soreness of a feeling. At one point I thought it’s maybe the stretching and exercising I’m doing using new muscles that I have not used for a long time maybe the aches go away. I don’t have severe pain but this soreness and stiffness that comes back after stretching. I have not been able to touch my toes in 25 years, since I have been exercising and stretching I can touch my toes I can lift my hand straight above my head which you know is very difficult for gout suffers.

  • Robert Ward

    Reply Reply February 2, 2017

    I have had gout for over 13 years with 4-5 attacks a year some years more some years less, but not that much less. I am being treated at the Louisville VA medical center.

    I have changed my diet to what the have recommend about 5 times over the years and no luck, maybe a little but 4-5 attacks on a year period is way to much for me my co workers and my family to have to deal with I have had a heart attack 8 years ago. I need help, I do not want to keep going through this. Once this attack is over I am starting Yoga classes, and continue to ride my bike to keep active to starve of diabieaties as well. I guess my question is what do you offer different than what everyone else says?

    I have tried all the old wise tails. Cheery juice, bananas, broccoli, whatever you name it I have tried it and failed every time. I don’t eat red meat, I do not drink, and as most Americans, I eat a diet of chicken, avocados, rice noodles, eggs, biscuits, bacon, sometimes rare I will eat some sausage.

    I need help asap bad.

    • Spiro Koulouris

      Reply Reply February 2, 2017

      To answer your question, keep exercising and staying your ideal weight and keep eating well. I’d remove the bacon and sausage which really affects your gout. I’d stick with a diet of eating 80% of your daily calories in vegetables, beans, whole grain breads, pastas and rices. Limit meat to 10% of your daily calories, so that means eating meat that is lean and about 4-5 ounces a day is more than enough for your protein intake. Final 10% of your daily calories should be fat as in milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, eggs etc..

      Drink only water, teas and coffee. Avoid all alcohol and sugary beverages.

      Problem is if your gout is advanced, nothing may work to be truly gout free. Sure a good diet and exercise can go a long way to lower uric acid levels in your blood but if your gout is advanced then you will have no choice but to take some type of prescription medication prescribed by your doctor to manage your uric acid levels for the long term. Keep doing blood test every so often and see how you fare.

      Good luck!

      Spiro

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