Septic arthritis (SA) and gout have similar symptoms, such as sudden pain and swelling, usually in one joint. However, SA is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. It can be a complication of gout.

Although both SA and gout can cause similar symptoms, there are important differences between the two conditions.

This article discusses these differences and explains the symptoms and treatment for both. It also goes over home remedies and prevention.

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SA and gout are types of arthritis. Arthritis is a general name for many conditions that cause people to experience joint inflammation.

Because these two conditions share similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

SA development

People can develop SA when they have an infection in a joint or the fluid around it. It can also develop if an infection spreads into a joint from another part of the body. SA is an emergency medical condition that can lead to severe complications.

Bacteria cause most SA infections. Viral or fungal infections can also cause SA. The germs that cause it may enter a person’s body through wounds, surgery, or injections. Another name for the condition is infectious arthritis.

Gout development

Gout is a common form of arthritis. People can develop gout if they have a condition called hyperuricemia, where there is too much uric acid in the body. Certain conditions and lifestyle options can make a person more at risk of developing hyperuricemia and gout.

Gout symptoms tend to come and go over time in a pattern of flare-ups and remission. Gout is also called gouty arthritis.

SA can be a serious complication of gout. However, it is extremely rare for people with gout to also have SA.

SA is a sudden form of arthritis that can be highly painful. It occurs due to an infection and can cause permanent damage to the joints quickly.


People with SA usually experience symptoms that come on rapidly. They include:

SA typically affects only one joint, usually the knee. However, it may also affect other joints, such as the:

  • hips
  • ankles
  • shoulder
  • wrists

In rare cases, SA may affect more than one joint.

Learn more about septic arthritis.


Doctors treat SA using a combination of:

  • resting the affected joint
  • antibiotic medication for a bacterial infection
  • antifungal medication for fungal infections
  • joint drainage, where a doctor drains the area around the joint to:
    • remove infected fluid
    • reduce pain and inflammation
    • prevent further joint damage
  • arthroscopy, which involves inspecting the joint using a narrow tube with a camera
  • open joint surgery

SA that occurs due to a virus usually heals itself without medication.

Gout is a highly painful and common type of inflammatory arthritis.


People with gout typically have symptoms in their affected joint, including:

  • intense pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • heat

Gout typically only affects one joint at a time. This is usually the big toe. It can also infect other joints, such as those in the:

  • other toes
  • ankles
  • knees
  • fingers

People with gout usually have symptoms that start suddenly, called a gout flare. Gout flares can last days or weeks.

Periods of remission follow a flare, with no symptoms before another flare. Gout remissions can last weeks, months, or years.

Learn more about gout.


Gout may require different treatments for each person, depending on the symptoms and cause. Doctors aim to reduce pain, prevent flares, and avoid complications using medications such as:

Other treatments can include diet and lifestyle changes.

Doctors may also manage hyperuricemia, the underlying cause of gout. They may use medication to lower a person’s urate levels.

Home remedies may help people manage symptoms or effects of these conditions, especially gout. However, it is always best for an individual to speak with a healthcare professional before trying any kind of self-management.


SA is a severe infection that requires immediate medical treatment.

Following SA treatment from healthcare professionals, gentle exercise may help preserve range of motion, build muscle strength, and improve joint function.


People may be able to manage gout flares by:

  • applying an ice pack to the affected area for 20–30 minutes several times a day
  • avoiding drinking alcohol
  • reducing stress, where possible
  • avoiding foods such as shellfish, red meat, gravy, and sweetbreads
  • walking with a cane
  • staying hydrated
  • elevating the affected foot

Although prevention of SA and gout may not always be possible, there are ways a person can help reduce their risk of developing the conditions and decrease the frequency of gout flare-ups.


Individuals can develop SA if infections get into a joint. Most of these infections are the result of bacteria or germs. People can reduce their risk of SA by doing their best to avoid contracting infections.

Diabetes is another risk factor for SA. Managing blood glucose levels can help lower this risk.


People can help prevent gout flare-ups by:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • eating a balanced diet as recommended by healthcare professionals
  • avoiding alcohol
  • avoiding or quitting smoking
  • staying hydrated
  • being physically active
  • avoiding fatty foods and sugary food or drinks

The following are some questions people commonly ask about gout and SA.

Can people mistake SA for gout?

SA and gout have similar symptoms. People may mistake other conditions, including gout, for SA.

How can people tell the difference between gout and infection?

Although gout and SA often affect different parts of the body, both conditions can still have similar symptoms. Doctors can only definitively diagnose gout during a gout flare. They will rule out other causes of symptoms, such as SA.

How do people know if they have SA?

If a person believes they may have SA, it is best to seek immediate care from a doctor. Doctors diagnose SA using specialist tests, such as arthrocentesis. This is a procedure where they take a fluid sample from a person’s joint and test it to confirm if the person has SA.

Gout and SA are forms of arthritis with different causes. Both conditions have similar symptoms.

SA is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment from a healthcare professional to prevent complications. A person who thinks they may have SA should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

While there is no cure for gout, the symptoms are manageable with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. SA typically resolves once the body has cleared the infection that caused it. This may require the use of antibiotics or antifungal medications.

If an individual experiences sudden pain in any of their joints, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional.