Colchicine for gout attacks

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Colchicine is taken to ease the pain of a gout attack.

Take one tablet 2-4 times a day until the pain eases, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. 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 medicineAn anti-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.

The most commonly prescribed treatment for a gout attack is an anti-inflammatory painkiller, although not everyone is able to take this kind of medicine. Colchicine is an alternative treatment for gout attacks for those people who cannot take anti-inflammatory painkillers. It works by reducing the number of white blood cells which travel into the inflamed areas. This helps break the cycle of inflammation and reduces the swelling and pain of the 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 knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any problems with the way your heart or liver works, or any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • 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 a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about colchicine and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • You must take colchicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Most doctors will recommend that when a gout attacks starts, you should take one tablet 2-4 times a day until the pain eases. It is important that you do not take more than 12 tablets of colchicine as a course of treatment during any one gout attack. It is also important that you leave at least three days between courses of colchicine. If you find you are having frequent attacks of gout, please let your doctor know about this.
  • 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 a flare-up attack of gout, the usual dose for this is one tablet twice each day.
  • Take colchicine tablets with a drink of water.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice while you are on colchicine. This is because grapefruit juice increases the risk that you will experience side-effects from the colchicine.
  • Colchicine tablets are taken in short courses of treatment to relieve the pain of a gout attack. If you have frequent attacks of gout, let your doctor know as your he/she may prescribe another medicine for you to take every day to help prevent the attacks from occurring.
  • There are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help reduce the risk of having a gout attack. These include losing weight (if you are overweight), eating a healthy diet and not drinking much alcohol or sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Your doctor will advise you about the changes which could benefit you.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. Taking too much colchicine can cause serious problems. If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of colchicine or has swallowed some by accident, you must contact a doctor straightaway. Alternatively, go to the accident and emergency department of a local hospital. Do not delay. Take the container with you, even if it is empty. This is so the doctor knows what has been taken.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with colchicine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common colchicine side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling or being sick, pain in your tummy (abdomen)Stop 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 the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines 'over-the-counter', always check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take alongside your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not 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

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Colchicine 500 microgram Tablets; Wockhardt UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2010.
  • British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

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 (v25)
Last Checked:
08/05/2015
Next Review:
07/05/2018
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