Gout In Hands: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

By Terez Malka, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
December 8, 2021

We use our hands for pretty much everything.

Whether we’re texting, cooking, or typing on our laptops, they are our most basic tools.

Having a gout attack in the hands can bring our days to a screeching halt. 

Thankfully, gout is treatable and can be managed with medication and certain lifestyle changes.

If the right steps are taken, you can also prevent gout from spreading to other parts of the body. 

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What is Gout?

Gout is one of the most well-documented diseases in all of human history.

It’s a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid in the joints.

Uric acid is supposed to pass through the kidneys before leaving the body through the urine.

If gout is not properly excreted, then it accumulates in the form of crystals in the joints. It can be very painful. 

It is usually first noticeable in the bunion joint of the big toe.

However, it can advance to other parts of the body like the ankles, knees, elbows, and hands.

Contracting gout can depend on your genetic disposition and having diseases like kidney disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

A high-purine diet including excessive alcohol, beer, and sugar has been found to be the cause of gout attacks. 

Gout flare-ups can last from 3-10 days.

If it goes untreated, it can develop into “tophi,” which are hard bumps found underneath the skin. Surgery may be required to remove the bumps.

Symptoms of Gout in Hands

Gout in the hands is usually an advanced stage of the disease.

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with gout in other joints of the body, you may actually have arthritis.

If you sense a gout flare-up in the hands, you’ll experience the following symptoms: 

  • Joint pain in the hand
  • Swelling and redness in the hand 
  • Pain in the middle finger knuckle 
  • Limited mobility in the hand

Causes of Gout in Hands

To prevent gout in the hands, try to catch other gout attacks early on and begin treatment.

Gout is most commonly diagnosed in the big toe, ankles, and knees before advancing to the hands.

Read below to learn more about why you might have a gout flare in your hands.

Genetics

There is a strong connection between genetics and gout, even moreso than the connection to a person’s dietary habits.

Some patients are susceptible to an excess amount of uric acid in the body, leading to crystals forming in the joints.

Hand Injuries

A bent finger from a friendly game of pick-up is probably an outcome you want to avoid.

But if you’re prone to gout attacks, then you should take care to avoid injuries on the basketball court even more than the average person. Inflammation from an injury is a perfect storm for building up uric acid in the joints.

Take extra care with your work and your play, so you don’t accidentally aggravate your gout.

Other health conditions

Other health conditions like kidney disease, obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease can make you more susceptible to contracting gout.

Insulin resistance and some medication for high blood pressure like diuretics (water pills) can also lead to gout. 

Diet

A heavy purine diet could be the reason for your gout.

Purine compounds can elevate uric acid levels making it more difficult for your kidneys to do their job.

Here are the food choices which may be causing your gout: 

  • Alcoholic beverages, especially beer and distilled liquor
  • Soda and other high sugar drinks
  • Bacon
  • Turkey
  • Liver 
  • Anchovies
  • Scallops
  • Mussels
  • Trout
  • Sardines 

Diagnosing Gout in Hands

Gout in the hands is not particularly common.

It usually appears in the big toe, ankles, and knees before advancing to the upper body parts. 

If it is in your hands, it often appears in the knuckle first.

The joints will be inflamed, irritated, and you’ll feel painful swelling and limited mobility. 

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination in addition to fluid removal, blood tests, and possibly X-rays to diagnose your gout.

A doctor will help determine it is not another form of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you already know you have gout, additional tests are usually not needed.

Tophi underneath the skin or large painful bumps is a sure sign of inflammation and gout in the hands.

Your doctor will check for tophi and recommend a treatment plan.

Treatment for Gout in Hands

Through a combination of diet and medication, gout can be easily managed.

Just like for other joints, gout in the hands can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and the prescription anti-inflammatory medicationscolchicine (Colcrys) and/or indomethacin. 

Don’t dismiss good old-fashioned ice and rest for alleviating your pain and discomfort. 

Intentionally making certain dietary choices, like severely limiting your alcohol consumption and sugar, can also make all the difference in your gout treatment.

Additionally, you can start exercising regularly to try and overcome your gout symptoms.

Preventing Gout in Hands

Preventing gout in the hands requires a lot of ownership on the patient’s part.

Daily lifestyle choices, diet changes, and close monitoring can all help prevent gout attacks in the hands. 

Since it starts in other parts of the body before advancing to the hands, it’s important to see a doctor for treatment before it goes that far.

Taking preventive medication like febuxostat (Uloric), allopurinol (Aloprim), and probenecid (Benemid) can assist with reducing the amount of uric acid buildup in the joints.

Your doctor can help you determine if these are a good choice for you.

Eating less purine-heavy foods and eliminating alcohol, beer, and excess sugar will do wonders for preventing gout attacks in the future.

Maintaining a healthy weight, which you can assess with your doctor or health care provider, has also been associated with preventing gout flare-ups. 

Dehydration helps cause the buildup of uric acid since it cannot be diluted and properly passed through the kidneys.

So, grab your favorite water bottle and figure out a method to stay hydrated. 

Most importantly, you should find out what triggers the gout attacks in your hands.

Keep track of your daily activities, what you ate that day, and your stress levels, to see what triggers your gout flares.

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When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor at the first sign of a gout attack.

Gout attacks can be treated and you can prevent it from spreading to other joints in the body, so you want to catch it early if possible.

If your gout is particularly painful, or you start recognizing tophi bumps, then go see a doctor immediately.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

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

How long can gout in the hands last?
A gout attack, on average, lasts from 3-10 days, but it can linger beyond that timeline. Gout can be treated with pain and anti-inflammatory medications along with healthy lifestyle and diet changes. If you notice you're developing tophi bumps or your gout attack is severely painful and not improving with over-the-counter medications, then please speak with your doctor or health care provider.
What is the most common trigger for gout?
Eating a high-purine diet that includes a lot of beer, sugar, and organ meats is the most common trigger for gout. However, gout attacks are also highly dependent on your genetic makeup and family history.
Will gout in the hands go away on its own?
Gout attacks usually go away after 3-10 days, but they can return. Pain management and dietary changes are recommended to prevent gout attacks in the future.
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.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.