Gout is a painful and potentially disabling form of arthritis that affects over 3 million Americans. It typically causes an attack of sudden burning pain, usually in your big toe.
Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. For most people, uric acid is not harmful even in moderate to high doses. But when uric acid levels are too high, it can form hard, needle-like crystals in your joints. According to research, this may may happen because your kidneys are having a hard time removing uric acid from your body.
Your chances of getting gout dramatically increase if you are overweight, drink too much alcohol, or eat too much meat and fish that are high in chemicals called purines. Some medicines, such as water pills (diuretics), as well as low-dose aspirin, can also bring on gout. Gout occurs more often in men than it does with women, primarily because their uric acid levels tend to be higher.
The most common sign of gout is a nighttime attack of swelling, extreme tenderness, redness, and sharp pain in your big toe. However, you can also get gout in your foot, ankle, knees or other joints. Most of the time, symptoms subside after several hours to a week. However, if left untreated, gout can show up several times a year and last as long as several weeks.
Symptoms of gout include:
– Sudden night time swelling of the big toe or other joint(s)
– The pain increases quickly, lasts for hours and is intolerably sensitive
– Red or purplish skin that appears infected around the joint
– Limited movement and/or peeling and itching around the skin of the affected joint
It’s possible to have gout but not have any of the classic symptoms of a gout attack. For some people, gout shows up as nodules called tophi on the hands, elbows or ears. Chronic gout in older adults may be less painful and can be confused with other forms of arthritis.
Certain conditions make it more likely you’ll develop gout. These include a family history of gout, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood and narrowing of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).
If you suspect you have gout, see your doctor right away. Even if your symptoms have gone down, the uric acid build up in your blood could still be damaging your body. Most likely your doctor can prescribe medicine the can prevent or even reverse the uric acid build up.