Gout is a type of arthritis that is both common and complex, and it can impact anyone. Its symptoms include abrupt and intense flare-ups of pain, swelling, tenderness, and redness in one or multiple joints, often in the big toe.
Gout attacks can come on abruptly, causing frequent awakening at night as though your big toe is on fire. Even the weight of the bedsheet may appear unpleasant on the affected joint because it is so hot, swollen, and sensitive.
Although gout symptoms may come and go, there are techniques to treat them and stop flare-ups.
Gout attacks generally come on quickly, frequently at night. They consist of:
- Swelling and redness caused by inflammation. Affected joints develop swelling, tenderness, warmth, and redness.
- Severe pain in the joints. Gout is a type of arthritis that often affects the big toe. However, it can also impact other joints such as the elbows, wrists, fingers, ankles, and knees. The onset of gout is typically rapid, with severe pain often occurring within the first four to twelve hours after it begins. As a result, the affected joint can become extremely painful and sensitive during this time.
- Persistent uneasiness or discomfort. Some joint discomfort may remain from a few days to a few weeks after the most intense pain disappears. Later episodes are probably more prolonged and likely to involve more joints.
- Restricted ability of movement. When gout symptoms worsen, it may become difficult or even impossible to move the affected joint normally.
It is important to seek medical attention if you experience sudden, severe joint discomfort. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your symptoms and provide appropriate treatment to help relieve discomfort and prevent joint damage. If you are experiencing joint pain accompanied by a fever and the joint appears hot and inflamed, it may indicate an infection. In such cases, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Failure to do so can result in worsening symptoms and potential joint damage.
When urate crystals build up in your joint, it results in gout, which is characterized by joint inflammation and excruciating pain. When uric acid levels in the blood are high, uriate crystals might develop. Purines, which are chemicals that are naturally present in your body, are broken down in your body to form uric acid.
Some foods, such as red meat and organ meats like liver, contain purines as well. Anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna are some examples of seafood high in purines. Higher uric acid levels are encouraged by alcoholic beverages, particularly beer, and liquids sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).
In a healthy individual, the kidneys filter uric acid from the blood and excrete it in the urine. However, in some cases, the body may produce too much uric acid or the kidneys may excrete too little uric acid. This can cause uric acid to accumulate in the joints or surrounding tissue, leading to the formation of sharp, needle-like urate crystals. The presence of these crystals can cause swelling, pain, and inflammation in the affected area.
If your body contains excessive quantities of uric acid, you are more prone to develop gout. Your body’s level of uric acid can rise as a result of the following factors:
- Age and sex. Men experience gout more frequently than women, as women typically have lower uric acid levels. However, after menopause, women’s uric acid levels begin to resemble those of men. Men are also more likely to experience the signs and symptoms of gout earlier than women do, typically between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Family history of gout. You are more prone to get gout if other family members have the condition.
- Weight. Being overweight causes your body to produce more uric acid and makes it harder for your kidneys to get excrete uric acid.
- Diet. Consuming foods and beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) and overconsumption of red meat and shellfish raise uric acid levels, raises your risk of developing gout. Additionally, drinking alcohol, primarily beer, raises your risk of developing gout.
- Certain medical conditions. Several illnesses and conditions can increase your risk of developing gout, including untreated high blood pressure and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and kidney disease. It’s important to manage these underlying conditions to reduce your risk of gout and minimize its impact on your health.
- Certain medications. Low-dose aspirin and several drugs used to treat hypertension, such as thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta blockers, can also raise blood uric acid levels. The use of anti-rejection medications that doctors provide to organ transplant recipients can also increase uric acid levels.
- Recent surgery or trauma. Sometimes a gout episode is brought on by recent surgery or trauma. Receiving a vaccine may cause a gout flare in some people.