Podiatric Misdiagnosis of Gout

What are some of the misconceptions about gout and why is it often misdiagnosed?

Gout has long been a misunderstood, and often misdiagnosed, condition. Though for centuries the disorder was believed to be a disease of the wealthy and overindulgent, in actuality it is no such thing. The majority of people who develop gout do not abuse alcohol or overindulge in purine foods, such as organ meats, anchovies and sardines. Even if patients with gout do overindulge in such products, simply changing their eating and drinking habits is highly unlikely to cure the condition.

Gout is quite common, affecting more than 2 million Americans. Because it typically affects patients in particular categories, and because its symptoms can mimic those of other disorders, it is fairly frequently misdiagnosed. Since gout is most common in men between the ages of 30 and 50, and in postmenopausal women (and very rare in children and young adults), podiatrists may have a tendency to misdiagnose patients in the appropriate age categories when the big toe or ankle is inflamed and painful without other obvious cause.

Diagnosing Gout Correctly

Diagnosis is a big problem for the patient because it means that the prescribed treatments won’t relieve the pain or cure the disorder. Unless the podiatrist administers the necessary laboratory test before diagnosing gout, he or she may be guilty of podiatric malpractice. The essential test for gout is arthrocentesis, which involves extracting fluid from the affected joint and having it examined in a laboratory. The determining factor is the presence of uric acid crystals in the extracted fluid. Sometimes the test may have to be repeated because the crystals are not observed in the first batch of fluid extracted.

Misdiagnosis of Gout May Involve Malpractice

If proper testing is not performed by the podiatrist, other conditions may be mistaken for gout. This can be serious because the patient may be prescribed gout medications that have negative side effects while not treating the patient’s actual problem. In some cases, this can be very dangerous because the patient’s undiagnosed condition may worsen, causing increasing pain and immobility and possibly progressing into a more severe type of the undiagnosed disease.

Conditions that may be mistaken for gout include:

  • Pseudogout, in which crystals of calcium, rather than uric acid, form and deposit in the joint
  • Reactive arthritis, caused by a reaction to an infection elsewhere in the body
  • Psoriatic arthritis, which occurs in 4 to 6 percent of patients with psoriasis of the skin
  • Infectious arthritis, caused by an infection within the affected joint
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Advanced osteoarthritis

If you suspect you have been misdiagnosed with gout or any other podiatric condition, you should explore your options with a skilled attorney who specializes in podiatric malpractice. A lawyer with expertise in this discipline will be able to advise you as to whether you have a case and, if possible, assist you in receiving just compensation for your pain and suffering.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.