Often, the diagnosis of gout is obvious, especially if a person has had gout before. A red, hot, painful swollen big toe joint in a man over 40 is usually gout.
However it could also be an infection in the joint or bone, or an unusual condition known as pseudo-gout. So if you have not had gout before or you are not sure what is causing the symptoms, see your doctor.
The doctor may confirm the diagnosis by taking a sample of fluid from the joint with a thin needle and sending it to a laboratory, where urate crystals can be seen in the fluid through a microscope. A blood test may also show elevated levels of uric acid in the blood (although it is possible to have high uric acid blood levels and not have gout). X-rays aren't usually used to diagnose gout, but they may be used in people with recurrent gout to assess how much damage there is to the affected joint.
Last reviewed: December 2017