Gout Overview

Essentials on Gout Causes and Symptoms

Your first experience with gout may alarm you since the intense pain occurs so quickly, and the subsequent swelling can be aggressive. However, despite its sudden appearance, a gout attack usually results from months of uric acid quietly accumulating in the big toe or another joint.

The concentrated uric acid forms into small crystals that inflame your bones, cartilage, ligaments, and other joint tissues. For months, your nerves fail to recognize the invasion. Instead, they abruptly discover the problem, sounding the alarm that needle-like crystals have infiltrated the joint.

Gout Cause: Too Much Uric Acid
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is a waste product that occurs naturally when your body breaks down certain proteins.

While medications, certain foods, and alcohol can raise uric acid levels, usually the real problem is in your kidneys. In the majority of gout cases, the kidneys cannot filter out and excrete the uric acid fast enough, and it accumulates in one or more joints.

While the big toe is the most popular location for gout attacks, it frequently infiltrates other joints in the feet and ankles. It can also affect your elbows, wrists, and hands.

Who Gets Gout?
About 2.6% of Americans have experienced one or more gout attacks, and it tends to afflict men more than women. The risk of falling prey to gout is also higher in people who:

  • eat a lot of meat- or seafood-based protein
  • live with kidney disease
  • have heart disease or high blood pressure
  • are overweight or obese
  • take diuretic medications
  • drink alcohol

If you suspect you may be experiencing your first gout attack, visit your primary care doctor or provider. Because other joint infections and forms of arthritis have similar symptoms, your doctor must make a definite gout diagnosis. He or she will examine a small sample of the fluid found inside your joint under a microscope to look for uric acid crystals, or simply do a blood test to check the uric acid level in your bloodstream.

Learn more about gout causes: we have an article focused just on what causes gout.

More about Gout Symptoms
Severe and sudden pain—an attack—is the main gout symptom, especially with your first bout.

However, people who have lived with gout for a while can often feel early warning signs, like small stabs of pain. Once an attack is underway, the affected joint often swells and becomes very sensitive to the touch. You will frequently develop a fever, and the skin covering your joint may become dry and shiny while the color transforms to a reddish-purple.

Gout attacks, and the related pain, usually go away on their own in 5 to 7 days. However, you should visit your doctor at the beginning of a bout. He or she can often shorten that time significantly, provide you significant pain relief, and prescribe strategies for reducing uric acid levels to prevent future attacks. .

Updated on: 11/17/15
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