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.

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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