What is Gout?
Gout is a common and complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone. It is characterized by sudden and intense attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in the joints, often in the joint at the base of the big toe.
A gout attack can happen suddenly and can often cause you to wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen, and so tender that even the weight of the sheet can seem intolerable.
Gout symptoms may come and go, but there are ways to control them and prevent flare-ups.
What are the Symptoms of Gout?
The signs and symptoms of gout almost always occur suddenly and often at night. Here are some of them:
- Severe joint pain Gout usually affects the large joint of the big toe, but it can occur in any joint. Other joints that are frequently affected are the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. The pain is likely to be most severe within the first 4 to 12 hours after it starts.
- Persistent discomfort After the most severe pain subsides, some joint discomfort may remain, which may last for a few days or weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer and affect more joints.
- Swelling and redness The affected joints become swollen, tender, hot, and red.
- Limited range of motion. As gout progresses, you may not be able to move your joints normally
What are the Causes of Gout?
Gout occurs when urate crystals build up in a joint, causing inflammation and severe pain in a gout attack. Urate crystals can form if you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.
The body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines, which are substances that are naturally present in the body.
Purines are also found in certain foods, such as steak, organ meat, and shellfish. There are other foods that also cause high levels of uric acid, such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).
Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and passes through the kidneys into the urine. But sometimes the body makes too much uric acid or the kidneys excrete too little. When this happens, uric acid builds up and forms needle-like urate crystals in a joint or the tissue around it, causing pain, inflammation, and swelling.
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