Gout: Causes & Symptoms

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Gout is a very unusual condition that is most commonly characterized as an acute attack of inflammatory arthritis and results in hot, swollen, and painful joints.

What is Gout?

Gout is an accumulation of uric acid crystals in various parts of the body, and when they begin to gather and cease to move through the body, they tend to end up in the joints. This deposition causes nodules called tophi to form under the skin, red and swollen joints that feel warm to the touch. This is why the symptoms are so similar to acute inflammatory arthritis because the accumulation of these crystals in the joints can make them inflamed, reduce the movement range, and cause intense pain. Gout can generally be seen in the feet, big toe, or fingers, wrists, elbows or knees due to slower blood flow in the extremities, particularly in the big toe.

Gout can also appear in other forms as well, including kidney stones, tophi (accumulated crystal formation in the joints or bones), or urate nephropathy, which is a significant decrease in kidney function.

Causes

A gout attack often occurs after a night of heavy drinking, in which the concentration of uric acid in the blood rises rapidly, or after physical activity that causes these acidic crystals to shift position in the joints. These gout attacks can comprise 8-12 hours of severe inflammation and pain, followed by a few days of discomfort. The interval between gout attacks can be days or years, depending on your treatment approach and lifestyle.

Cases of gout have increased greatly in recent years, and much of that is suspected to be due to changes in diet and lifestyle in the modern world.

  • Diet: Gout used to be called the “rich man’s disease” or the “disease of kings” because it is commonly associated with eating a very rich diet that was high in fat, sugar, meat, seafood, and alcohol. The modern diet has many preservatives, chemicals, and artificial sugars that are added to so many foods, which may lead to this condition.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Now, with those types of foods, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, gout is appearing much more frequently.
  • Genetic predisposition: You can also biologically inherit some genes that predispose you to gout.
  • Various medical conditions: Some diseases that increase your chances of developing it include hypertension, obesity, and insulin resistance/diabetes.

Symptoms

Gout may present itself in a number of ways that could point to developing early stages of tophi or crystallized deposits:

  • Unusual joint pain
  • Hardened areas like callouses or cysts on elbows, knees, or toe joints
  • Slight malfunctions in kidney function
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Extreme fatigue
  • High fever
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