Assess how your condition became apparent. Pain that comes on suddenly and seems localized in a joint or joints is probably gout pain. Initial symptoms like headache, sensitivity to light or flu-like symptoms followed by tingling pain is more likely the result of shingles.
Consider the location and type of pain involved. Gout pain is usually localized around a joint. The skin around the painful joint may appear red or infected. Shingles, by contrast, typically begins as tingling pain on the chest or back. However, it can also flair up on the belly, head, face, arm or leg. Shingles pain may affect more than one area simultaneously, but will be on just one side of the body.
Evaluate the progression of your symptoms. Gout pain may begin to subside over the course of a few days, and the skin around the affected area may peel and feel itchy. Shingles, by contrast, may advance from tingling pain to a band of rash which forms blisters and is accompanied by intense, stabbing pain. Even after the rash subsides, the pain of shingles may continue to affect the nervous system for thirty days or longer.
Seek medical care. Whichever condition is causing your pain and other symptoms, a physician can offer treatment which may alleviate your suffering. Gout may respond to anti-inflammatory medications or steroids. Your physician may also be able to recommend lifestyle and diet changes that would reduce future gout flare-ups. Shingles, which is viral in nature, may require antiviral medication, or topical pain relievers.