Published Jan 16, 2024

How long does gout last?

Jake Bissaro
Written by
Jake Bissaro
Dr. Sudip Bose
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sudip Bose
Side view of a Black man in an apron, standing on outdoor stairs with cup of coffee and looking away from the camera.
Published Jan 16, 2024

Key Points:

  • Gout is a common type of arthritis characterized by painful attacks (or flares) of intense joint inflammation.
  • Without treatment, flares can last up to two weeks. The worst flare symptoms usually last one to two days.
  • There’s no cure for this painful condition. But lifestyle changes and prescription treatment can significantly improve symptoms and prevent flares.

When you’re in the grips of a gout flare, it can seem like the pain will never end. And when the pain flares at night, it can feel like you’re in a world of hurt all your own.

There’s no cure for gout. But some lifestyle changes can help reduce painful symptoms and prevent flares. Here’s what to know about how gout happens. Plus, how to get prescription gout treatment with an online consultation from Dr. B.

What is gout?

Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis, affecting almost 4% of the US population. It primarily affects joints like the big toe, knees or ankles—usually one at a time. It happens when levels of uric acid in the blood get too high—a condition called hyperuricemia.

The body produces uric acid to break down purines—a compound in all plants and meats. Rich foods like red meat, organ meat, game meat and certain kinds of seafood have especially high purine levels. When the body produces too much uric acid to break down these purines, the acid forms sharp urate crystals in the joints, causing painful flares.

Risk factors for developing gout include:

  • Being assigned male at birth (AMAB)
  • Being over 65 years old
  • Being post-menopausal
  • Having a genetic history of kidney failure
  • Having African American, Pacific Islander, Indigenous American or Hispanic heritage

Is gout an autoimmune disease?

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis—not an autoimmune condition. Inflammatory arthritis happens when an overactive immune system causes symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.

Autoimmune conditions like psoriasis and type 1 diabetes happen when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. Some types of arthritis—including rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis—fall into this category.

Is gout a lifelong condition?

There is no cure for this painful condition. But some lifestyle changes can help people with gout minimize flares and symptoms long term.

To avoid gout flares, try:

  • Exercising or losing weight—these can help reduce uric acid levels.
  • Try low-impact activities like walking and cycling. Joint injuries can worsen the condition, so these can reduce the risk you’ll develop other issues.
  • Avoid purine-rich foods like red meat, organ meat and shellfish. This can reduce high levels of uric acid.
  • Reduce your consumption of high-fructose foods. Fructose may also contribute to high uric acid levels and flares.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can prevent the kidneys from flushing out uric acid.

How can I stop gout pain at night?

Flares are over twice as likely to occur at night or early morning. Experts aren’t sure why this happens. But one theory suggests that lower nighttime body temperatures may encourage urate crystals to form.

Some ways to stop pain at night include staying hydrated, elevating the painful joint and applying a cold compress to soothe burning pain.

So, how long does a gout flare last?

The worst symptoms usually happen during the first 12 to 24 hours. But if left untreated, the flare can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. The good news? The right treatment for gout can lower uric acid levels, reducing how often flares happen and their symptom severity.

Banner advertising Dr. B's services for gout treatments

Can I get gout treatment online?

Treating gout with over-the-counter and prescription medications can help reduce pain and prevent future flares.

  • Corticosteroids (like Prednisone) use the body's immune system to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness. These include over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and prescription medications like Indomethacin and Colchicine.

A $15 online consultation with Dr. B can help you start an effective treatment plan online. After answering a few questions, we’ll connect you with a licensed provider to review your information. If applicable, they’ll send a prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. We’ll even help you secure the lowest medication cost at your local pharmacy—and send you a drug discount card to guarantee the price!

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Gout.

Choi, H. K., et al. (2015). Nocturnal risk of gout attacks. Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Dehlin, M., et al. (2020). Global epidemiology of gout: prevalence, incidence, treatment patterns and risk factors. Nature Reviews Rheumatology.

Low, Q.J., et al. (2022). Management of gout in the primary care setting. Malaysian Family Physician.

Shekelle, P., et al. (2016). Management of gout. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Report.

Singh, G., et al. (2019). Gout and hyperuricemia in the USA: prevalence and trends. Rheumatology.

Singh, J.A. (2013). Racial and gender disparities among patients with gout. Current Rheumatology Reports.

Young, H.R., et al. (2011). The epidemiology of uric acid and fructose. Seminars in Nephrology.

Zhou, J., et al. (2017). Physical exercises and weight loss in obese patients help to improve uric acid. Oncotarget.

Back to all articles

Sign up for the free Dr. B newsletter for a weekly report on the latest in healthcare + research-based advice for staying healthy and mentally well.