Gout is the result of an excess amount of uric acid in the bloodstream, while rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body's immune system malfunctions and attacks the lining of the joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The symptoms of the two illnesses are similar, but the treatments are different.
Both gout and rheumatoid arthritis are forms of arthritis, which means they both include swelling, redness and pain in the joints. Mistaking rheumatoid arthritis for gout is common, reports the Arthritis Foundation.
Gout often occurs suddenly and intensely, sometimes waking people up in the middle of the night with sudden joint pain, notes Healthline. The symptoms usually begin in the big toe and spread to other joints, and they may come and go over time even without treatment. The buildup of uric acid can occur due to heavy alcohol consumption, a diet rich in foods that contain purines, certain medications or kidney problems. Some people may have a genetic predisposition. Gout is fairly easy to treat, but it can progress if not managed.
Rheumatoid arthritis may involve significant pain from the start, or it may begin with more moderate pain and stiffness, according to Healthline. It typically begins in the hands, wrists or toes. The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are more mysterious than the causes of gout, but there may be a genetic component to the condition. Environmental triggers, including viral infections, may also contribute. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive, systemic disease that is manageable but not curable.