What is gout?
Gout is a common form of arthritis that is caused when uric acid crystals are deposited in a joint, causing inflammation and intense pain. 1,2 Gout can affect any joint, but it most commonly affects the large joint of the big toe.1 Other joints that can be affected include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. 1
- Intense joint pain: 2,3 Sudden onset of severe pain, often waking you up in the middle of the night. The joint may be so tender that even the weight of the sheet on it may seem intolerable.
- Lingering discomfort: 2,3 After the most severe pain subsides (4-12 hours), some joint discomfort may last from a few days to a few weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer and affect more joints.
- Inflammation and redness: 2,3 The affected joint/joints become swollen, tender, warm and red.
- Limited range of motion: 3 As gout progresses, you may not be able to move your joints normally.
What causes gout?
Gout occurs when your body either produces too much uric acid or excretes too little uric acid in the urine. 3 When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needlelike crystals that can accumulate in a joint or the surrounding tissue. 3
Risk factors for gout
- Diet: 1 Eating a diet rich in red meats, organ meats and seafood (e.g. shellfish) and drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) increase uric acid levels.
- Alcohol: 1 Drinking alcohol, especially beer, can increase uric acid levels.
- Obesity: 2,3 If you’re overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating uric acid.
- Medical conditions: 3,4 Untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and kidney disease can increase your risk for gout.
- Certain medications: 3 Diuretics, commonly used to treat high blood pressure, and low-dose aspirin also can increase uric acid levels. So can the use of anti-rejection drugs prescribed for people who have undergone an organ transplant.
- Family history of gout: 3 If other members of your family have had gout, you’re more likely to develop the disease.
- Age: 1 The risk of gout increases as you get older.
- Gender: 2,3 Gout occurs more often in men, as women tend to have lower uric acid levels. After menopause, however, women’s uric acid levels approach those of men.
- Recent surgery or trauma: 2,3 Have been associated with an increased risk of developing a gout attack.
- Fasting/overeating: 2 Can increase the risk of a gout attack.