What Are the Symptoms of Thumb Gout?

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  • Written By: Andrea Cross
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2018
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Gout, a specific type of arthritis, inflames the joints due to an excess of uric acid. It can be acute or chronic and has a number of predisposing factors including lifestyle, conditions such as diabetes, and familial tendency. Uric acid accumulates when the body either produces too much or cannot get rid of it quickly enough. Thumb gout, where the joints of the thumb have become affected, produces a number of symptoms including pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Gout in the thumb is very painful, and attacks in this part of the body often last longer than in other joints. The pain starts suddenly and is localized to the thumb. Pain varies among individuals but is usually very sharp and throbbing, and the joint becomes very tender. Although this pain commonly recedes within 12 hours, it can last for weeks. The pain for this form of gout is normally treated with painkillers such as codeine.

Swelling is also localized, occurring around the joints or the top of the thumb. The skin of the thumb becomes taut and shiny. Swelling is due to the formation of tophi under the skin. Tophi consist of urate crystals that have been deposited around the joint, often taking a number of years to accumulate. The buildup of these crystals also causes the joint to become stiff.


Inflammation is another symptom of thumb gout. The joint becomes red and warm, and the patient may develop a slight fever. This inflammation is generally alleviated with corticosteroid injections into the joint and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. To reduce fever, patients take medications such as paracetamol.

These symptoms of thumb gout typically only occur once the patient has had gout for a significant amount of time, sometimes years. The thumb is often one of the last joints to be affected. Due to gout of the thumb occurring as part of a chronic condition, it can take longer to control the number and intensity of the attacks. Generally speaking, the longer the patient has had gout, the longer the attacks last. Some patients, however, find that they only have a single attack.

Doctors treat thumb gout in the same way as gout in other areas of the body. Medications that may be prescribed by a doctor include allopurinol, which prevents the formation of the urate crystals, and probenecid, which helps the body to increase the rate of urate removal. Lifestyle changes are also recommended for the patient, including a diet that is low in alcohol and high-fat foods. Certain foods that increase the formation of urate and should be avoided include asparagus, spinach, and oily fish.


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Post 3

@burcinc-- Do you have any fever? Or numbness in your thumb? When I had gout in my thumb, I also had these symptoms.

It could be gout, you should get checked out.

Post 2

My symptoms started two days ago and I'm dying from the pain. It's so weird, not like anything I've experienced before. I get these sharp pains that are intense for a few minutes and then it feels a little bit better, lingers for a couple of hours until the sharp pain returns.

When that happens, it literally feels like someone is pushing pins into my thumb. I don't see too much swelling but it definitely feels and looks hot.

Could this be gout?

Post 1

I'm taking care of my grandfather and he recently had a sudden gout attack in his thumb. He knew what it was though because he has gout in his toes already and the symptoms in his thumb were the same.

He is on medications but the pain hasn't gotten much better. He tells me that having gout in the thumb is a lot worse than having it in the toes because the thumb needs to have some flexibility in order to use the hand. He does have inflammation and stiffening of his toe joint but it doesn't bother him much. Now he's starting to get stiffening from the gout in his thumb and it's really bothering him. He can't bend his thumb which means he can't hold things.

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