Colchicine for gout attacks

  • Colchicine is to ease the pain of a sudden gout attack.
  • Do not take more than 12 tablets during any one attack.
  • Common side-effects are feeling sick and diarrhoea. If this happens, stop taking colchicine and let your symptoms settle.
Type of medicineAnti-inflammatory medicine for gout
Used forGout attacks
Available asTablets

Gout causes attacks of painful inflammation in one or more of your joints. It is caused by a build-up of a naturally-occurring chemical in your blood, called uric acid (urate). From time to time the level of uric acid in your blood may become too high and tiny grit-like crystals may form, which typically collect in your joints and tendons. The crystals irritate the tissues of the joint to cause inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Colchicine works by reducing the number of white blood cells which travel into the inflamed areas. This helps break the cycle of inflammation and reduces swelling and pain. It will have been prescribed if you are unable to take anti-inflammatory painkillers, which are the medicines most often used to ease a gout attack.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking colchicine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any problems with your heart, liver or kidneys.
  • If you have any problems with your digestive system.
  • If you have a blood disorder.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about colchicine, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
  • For sudden gout attacks, it is usual to take one tablet 2-4 times a day until your pain eases, although your doctor may suggest you take the tablets more frequently at first. Take colchicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack.
  • It is important you do not take more than 12 tablets during any one attack. It is also important that you do not take another course of colchicine within the next three days.
  • If you have recently been prescribed a medicine to prevent gout attacks (such as allopurinol, febuxostat, or sulfinpyrazone) and you have been given colchicine to prevent flare-up gout attacks, the usual dose for this is one tablet twice each day.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • There are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help reduce the risk of having gout attacks. These include losing weight (if you are overweight), eating a healthy diet, and not drinking much alcohol or sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Your doctor can advise you about the changes which may benefit you.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common colchicine side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling or being sick, pain in your abdomenStop your course of tablets and let your symptoms settle. If the sickness continues or is severe, speak with your doctor
DiarrhoeaStop your course of tablets and let your symptoms settle. If this is severe or contains blood, speak with your doctor straightaway

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 63rd Edition (Mar 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Colchicine 500 microgram Tablets; Manufacturer's PIL, Colchicine 500 microgram Tablets, Wockhardt UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2010.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
3230 (v24)
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