What Medications Treat Gout?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 7, 2021

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with sudden, severe pain in your big toe or another joint?

If so, you may have experienced gout, a type of arthritis that can cause swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints, most commonly in the big toe.

While some people are at higher risk for developing gout, anyone can develop the condition, and it may occur just once, or frequently, depending on your risk factors. 

While gout is certainly painful and can even be debilitating, there are plenty of treatment options to relieve gout pain.

Understanding what causes gout and gout risk factors can help prevent gout flare-ups.

If you do experience a gout flare, your health care provider or a K doctor can recommend an over-the-counter or prescription medication to help manage your symptoms. 

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What is Gout?

Gout is a common but painful form of arthritis.

It generally affects one joint at a time, and while it can affect any joint, it is most often found in the big toe.

While you can have chronic gout, it most often happens suddenly as an acute “gout flare.”

While there is no cure for gout, you can prevent it by understanding the risk factors and managing your flares with medication and lifestyle remedies.

While gout isn’t considered a serious medical condition, it can lead to a more severe form of chronic arthritis called gouty arthritis if left untreated or allowed to recur frequently.

Talk to your health care provider or a K doctor if you think you may be experiencing gout, or if you have experienced it frequently in the past. 

Gout causes

Your body produces a substance called uric acid when it breaks down purines, a chemical substance that naturally occurs in your body.

Your kidneys are responsible for getting rid of uric acid, but if your body has too much of it or your kidneys don’t excrete enough, urate crystals can accumulate in joints.

This accumulation of sharp, pointy urate crystals leads to inflammation and pain, often called a gout attack. 

Gout risk factors 

Anyone can experience gout, but certain risk factors increase the likelihood of a gout attack, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Certain medications (such as diuretics, or “water pills”)
  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Eating foods high in purine
    • Red meat 
    • Organ meat
    • Shellfish 
    • Anchovies
    • Trout
    • Tuna 
    • Beer
    • Alcoholic beverages sweetened with fructose
  • Certain health conditions 
    • Congestive heart failure 
    • Insulin resistance 
    • Diabetes
    • Poor kidney function 
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

While these risk factors may increase someone’s chances of having a gout attack, anyone can experience gout. 

Gout symptoms 

Gout is characterized by severe, sudden pain in a joint, most commonly the big toe.

Gout can also occur in a person’s ankles, elbows, knees, wrists, and fingers.

Common symptoms include: 

  • Severe joint pain that’s most severe at onset 
  • Discomfort for up to a few weeks after the intense pain subsides
  • Redness, swelling, heat, and tenderness in the affected joint
  • Decreased range of motion in the affected joint

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

A health care provider can help diagnose the problem and treat your symptoms. 

Diagnosis of gout

A health care provider or a K doctor can help you manage your pain and inflammation.

Generally, your symptoms and the appearance of the affected joint help clinicians diagnose gout.

But in some cases however, a provider may want to conduct other tests to be sure: 

  • Blood test: A blood test that measures levels of uric acid in your blood can indicate the presence of gout. But it’s important to note that some people have high levels of uric acid in their blood without experiencing gout, and for others the uric acid may not be elevated during an acute attack.
  • Joint fluid test: To determine if urate crystals are present in your joints, your doctor may draw fluid from the affected area with a needle. 
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to find urate crystals in your joints.
  • Dual-image computerized tomography (DECT): This test uses many different X-rays, taken from different angles, to determine whether a person has uric acid crystals in their joints.

If your provider suspects you have gout based on your symptoms and testing, they can recommend home remedies and, if necessary, medication to help you manage your symptoms when they arise.

Gout Medication Options

Gout can be very painful, but luckily, there are a number of medication options available to help reduce the severity of symptoms and even prevent future attacks.

Your health care provider may recommend over-the-counter medication, but in some cases, people take prescription drugs for gout. 

Nonprescription medicines

If you’re experiencing a gout attack, over-the-counter drugs can help to manage the pain and inflammation.

The most common type of nonprescription medications for gout are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and indomethacin (Indocin and Tivorbex), which reduce the pain and inflammation associated with a gout attack.

They shouldn’t be taken long-term, however, as NSAIDs can cause stomach pain and ulcers.

Prescription medicines

Your doctor may also recommend medicine for gout that requires a prescription.

Some of the most commonly prescribed gout medications include: 

  • Colchicine: Colchicine (Colcrys, Gloperba, and Mitigare) is a prescription anti-inflammatory drug that can reduce gout pain. It’s also known to cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Steroids: By reducing inflammation throughout the body, corticosteroids can also reduce pain and swelling from gout. Steroids can reduce pain during flare-ups, but they can also impact your immune system’s functioning. 
  • Drugs that help your body remove uric acid: Certain drugs, such as probenecid (Probalan) can help your kidneys excrete uric acid. These medications may, however, cause stomach pain and increase your risk of developing kidney stones. 
  • Drugs that block uric acid production: Allopurinol (Aloprim, Lopurin, and Zyloprim) and febuxostat (Uloric) can decrease the amount of uric acid created in the body. These drugs can come with significant side effects, such as kidney and liver problems. 

Depending on the cause, frequency, and severity of your gout attacks, as well as your other medical conditions, your health care provider will determine the appropriate treatment for you.

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Ways to Prevent Gout

If you’re at risk for gout, your doctor can help you manage symptoms when they happen.

But you can also prevent gout attacks on your own with some simple lifestyle changes, such as: 

  • Eating a healthy diet: Do your best to eat a nutritious diet, which will help you maintain a health weight and as a result, lower your risk of gout. Eating fewer purine-rich foods can also help. Try your best to limit shellfish, red and organ meats, beer, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Exercising regularly: Routine exercise can improve your overall health, which lowers your risk of gout. Exercise may also help you maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to more uric acid in the body, so maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to mitigate your risk factors. 
  • Staying hydrated: Hydration is another core component of health. Plus, your kidneys need water to excrete excess uric acid. Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day so you don’t get dehydrated, and watch your consumption of dehydrating drinks, such as coffee and alcohol. 

If you’re taking measures to improve your health and prevent gout flares but your joints are still bothering you, talk to a doctor.

Your provider may want to rule out other conditions or help recommend a better, more effective plan for preventing and treating your pain.

How K Health Can Help

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Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the drug of choice for gout?
What drug you take for gout depends on your doctor’s recommendation. Commonly, people use NSAIDs during gout attacks to reduce inflammation and manage pain and other symptoms. That said, your provider may suggest something different depending on your medical history. If you’re looking for a way to effectively manage your gout, speak with a health care provider about your options.
How do you get rid of gout pain fast?
Taking ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help to reduce the severity of your symptoms. Applying ice or heat can also help manage the pain, and it’s important to rest during gout flares to avoid injuring your joint. If your pain becomes unbearable or you have a fever during a gout attack, see a doctor right away, or go to the ER.
What is the safest gout medication?
What’s safe for one person may not be safe for you. If you have gout, speak with a health care provider, who can help you determine the treatment that’s most likely to improve your symptoms with the fewest risks.
Is there a daily medication for gout?
Depending on how severe your gout is and how often you experience gout flares, your health care provider may recommend a preventative medication that reduces uric acid in your body or helps your kidneys excrete uric acid. All medications come with their own benefits and risks, so it’s important to consult with a doctor about the best treatment option for you.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.