What Is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of crystals of uric acid in the joints. The body produces uric acid after it breaks down “purines” that are a component of a lot of types of food, especially meats.
Symptoms of gout include pain in the affected joints that comes on suddenly followed by swelling, warmth, tenderness and a red coloring of the joint. Many people experience it the joint at the base of the big toe. But some other people have it in their ankles, wrists, knees, elbows or fingers. For some, even the slightest touch of a sheet can cause pain.
Generally, these painful attacks subside anywhere from a few hours to a few days even with medication. In rare cases, they can last for weeks. These sorts of bouts can occur over a number of years. Some people also get a low-grade fever, but a higher fever may be a symptom of an infection and in this case, you should seek medical attention.
Over 8.3 million Americans (4%) suffer from gout. It is more common in men than in women and more common in African-American men than white men. The older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from it (up to around age 75).
What Causes Gout?
Gout occurs when the body doesn’t manage to handle the uric acid properly and instead crystalizes it in the joints. This can cause not only gout, but also painful arthritis and kidney stones. The uric acid crystals can also block the kidney filtering tubules and lead to kidney failure.
You are more likely to suffer from gout if you are obese, or if you gained a lot of weight – especially in your youth – if you drink alcohol, have high blood pressure or have abnormal kidney function. Some medications and diseases can also cause elevated levels of uric acid. More people with gout seem to suffer from abnormally low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism).
The most reliable way to diagnose gout is to test for uric acid crystals in the joint fluid and blood.
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.