What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in your joints, usually as flares that last for a week or two, and then go away. Gout flares often begin in your big toe or a lower limb.

Gout happens when high levels of a substance called urate build up in your body over a long period of time. When this happens, needle-shaped crystals form in and around the joint. This leads to inflammation and arthritis of the joint. However, many people with high levels of serum urate will not develop gout.

With early diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes, gout is one of the most controllable forms of arthritis.

Who gets gout?

Many people develop gout:

  • It is more common in men than in women.
  • Gout usually develops in middle age; women usually do not develop gout before menopause.
  • Less frequently, younger people develop the disease; however, if they do, the disease tends to be worse than when it develops in middle age.

What are the symptoms of gout?

The most common symptom of gout is pain in the affected joint, such as the big toe. Gout flares often start suddenly at night, and the intense pain may wake you up. In addition, your joint may feel swollen, red, and warm.

Gout flares usually occur in one joint. They can be triggered by:

  • Certain foods.
  • Alcohol.
  • Certain medications.
  • Physical trauma.
  • Certain illnesses.

Flares typically get better over a week or two. In between flares, you usually don’t have symptoms. Some people may have frequent flares, while others may not have another flare for years. However, over time, if left untreated, your flares may happen more often and last longer.

Some people with gout may be more likely to develop other conditions or complications, especially with the heart and kidneys.

What causes gout?

Gout happens when urate, a substance in your body, builds up and forms needle-shaped crystals in your joints. This leads to:

  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness
  • Changes in how you move and use the affected joint.

The following factors can make it more likely for you to develop gout:

  • High urate levels.
  • A family history of gout.
  • Being male.
  • Increasing age.
  • Having menopause.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Drinking beverages, such as soda, that are sweetened with sugar.
  • Having an unhealthy diet and eating foods that are rich in purines (which are usually from animal sources such as red meat), a substance that breaks down into urate.
  • Some health conditions, such as being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.
  • Some medications.

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