Gout in the elbow is a type of painful inflammatory arthritis that affects the elbow joint. It can lead to pain, inflammation, and stiffness of the elbow.

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints. It affects one joint at a time and occurs most commonly in the big toe. But gout may also affect other joints, including the elbow.

Symptoms of gout in the elbow can develop suddenly and cause intense pain. Currently, there is no cure for gout in the elbow, but there are ways to treat symptoms and manage the condition.

This article looks at gout in the elbow, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Was this helpful?
Male holding his elbowShare on Pinterest
FG Trade/Getty Images

Gout in the elbow is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the elbow joint and the bursae — small, fluid-filled sacs that provide a cushion between the bones, tendons, and muscles.

The condition results from an accumulation of uric acid in the body. The immune system reacts to the uric acid, causing an inflammatory response and common gout symptoms. The pain and swelling from gout in the elbow can come and go.

In the United States, gout affects about 4% of the population. Research is not definitive on how many cases of gout involve the elbow.

Who is more likely to have gout in the elbow?

Anyone can develop gout in the elbow. However, males are generally more likely to develop gout than females. Additional risk factors for developing gout in the elbow include:

  • having a family history of gout
  • having obesity
  • consuming alcohol excessively
  • being middle aged or older
  • having another medical condition, such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • eating a diet high in purine-rich foods such as scallops, tuna, and red meat
  • drinking beverages high in high fructose corn syrup, such as soda

Symptoms of elbow gout may come and go for several weeks or even longer. The intensity of symptoms may vary.

The symptoms of gout someone may feel in their elbow or other affected joints include:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • redness
  • limited range of motion
  • warmth

If symptoms persist, tophi can develop. Tophi are clumps of uric acid crystals that form in and around the joint. When they form around the elbow, they can cause the joint to become misshapen and can potentially cause permanent damage.

Gout in the elbow occurs when excess uric acid builds up in the blood. The body produces about two-thirds of its uric acid naturally. The remaining one-third comes from purines in food. Purines are in plant and animal foods that the body turns into uric acid.

Uric acid usually passes out of the body in the urine. However, if it builds up in the blood, it may form needle-like crystals in the elbow. These tiny, spike-like uric acid crystals can cause pain and inflammation.

The immune system reacts to the uric acid crystals as a foreign substance, and this leads to an inflammatory response.

It is not always possible to identify the trigger for a flare-up of gout in the elbow. Possible causes of a flare include:

  • an injury to the affected joint
  • an illness that involves a high temperature
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • consumption of large, fatty meals
  • dehydration
  • use of certain medications

An individual should speak with a healthcare professional about triggers for gout flare-ups and how to avoid them.

To diagnose gout in the elbow, a healthcare professional typically performs a physical exam. This includes examining the elbow or other affected joints, checking for pain and swelling, and assessing the range of motion. A medical and symptom history is also part of the evaluation.

The doctor may order diagnostic tests to confirm whether someone has gout in the elbow. These may include:

  • blood tests to measure kidney function and uric acid levels
  • X-ray to rule out other causes of elbow pain
  • ultrasound to look for urate crystal buildup in the elbow
  • synovial fluid analysis to check for uric acid crystals

The goals of treating gout in the elbow are to decrease pain, prevent future flare-ups, and prevent tophi. Treatment may consist of a combination of home remedies and medications.


Doctors may recommend various medications to treat gout. Individual treatment plans vary. Medications used to treat got in the elbow may include:

For severe gout flare-ups, doctors may prescribe a type of medication called an IL-1 (interleukin-1) inhibitor, such as anakinra or canakinumab.

The 2020 treatment guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology also recommend allopurinol as a first-line medication to lower uric acid levels.

Home remedies

Home remedies may help reduce symptoms of gout or decrease the chances of flare-ups. Home remedies may include the following recommendations:

  • Make dietary changes, such as avoiding red meats and seafood, including shrimp, lobster, and sardines.
  • Make efforts to reach or maintain a moderate weight.
  • Limit consumption of alcohol, especially beer.
  • Apply ice to the elbow area for 20–30 minutes several times per day to reduce inflammation.
  • Drink plenty of water to flush uric acid from the body. Aim for 8–16 glasses per day. However, people who have a medical condition that requires fluid restriction should check with their doctor first.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about gout in the elbow.

How long does it take for gout in the elbow to go away?

The amount of time it takes for gout in the elbow to resolve may vary. But in some cases, bouts of gout can last for days to weeks.

How do I know if I have gout in my elbow?

Someone may not immediately know they have gout in their elbow since the symptoms can mimic those of other inflammatory conditions. But a person can determine whether they have gout by visiting a doctor for an exam, a medical history, and diagnostic tests.

Is it gout or bursitis in my elbow?

Bursitis involves inflammation of the bursae, which are located near joints. Bursitis often causes symptoms similar to those of gout. Additionally, bursitis commonly develops in the elbow. This can make it challenging to distinguish gout in the elbow from bursitis.

One key factor that may help a doctor make a diagnosis involves risk factors. Someone who performs repetitive motions involving their elbow is at risk for bursitis, but repetitive movements are not a risk factor for gout in the elbow.

A person may also have gouty bursitis, which is a buildup of uric acid crystals with inflammation.

Gout in the elbow is a form of arthritis that affects the elbow joint. Although the first gout attack often affects the big toe, gout can also develop in other joints, including the elbow. The condition results from a buildup of uric acid in the body. This leads to the formation of needle-shaped crystals in the elbow or other affected joints.

Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Treatment may involve medication to reduce pain and swelling, as well as home remedies to manage the condition.