Acute gout attacks are characterized by a rapid onset of pain in the affected joint followed by warmth, swelling, reddish discoloration, and marked tenderness. The small joint at the base of the big toe is the most common site for an attack.
Other joints that can be affected include the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. In some people, the acute pain is so intense that even a bed sheet touching the toe causes severe pain. These painful attacks usually subside in hours to days, with or without medication. In rare instances, an attack can last for weeks. Most people with gout will experience repeated bouts over the years.