Gout is a type of arthritis that is caused by too much uric acid in the body. Too much uric in the body occurs for two reasons: when the body produces an excess amount of uric acid or when the kidneys fail to get rid of the proper amount of it. When uric acid builds up in the body, it builds up within the fluid that surrounds the joints.
This eventually causes severe joint pain and inflammation and most often affects the big toe, heels, ankles, knees, fingers, wrists, and elbows. This can later lead to kidney stones and lumps of uric acid crystals under the skin. About five out of 1,000 people in the U.S. have gout.
The signs and symptoms of gout often come on suddenly and usually appear at night. The pain associated with gout is often most severe within the first four to 12 hours after it starts. Signs and symptoms of gout include:
- Pain or discomfort that persists even after the most severe pain goes away. This may last few days to a few weeks.
- Inflammation and redness which causes the affected joints to become swollen, tender, warm and red.
- Limited mobility in joints. Joint mobility may decrease as gout gets worse.
Having high levels of uric acid in the body increases the risk for developing gout. Here are some things that can cause high levels of uric acid in the body:
- Age. Men are more likely to develop gout between the ages of 30 and 50. Women usually develop signs and symptoms after menopause.
- Obesity. Being overweight causes your body to produce more uric acid. As a result, your kidneys have a harder time getting rid of uric acid, which increases your risk of gout.
- Sex. Men are more likely to develop gout than women because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. This changes after menopause.
- Family history of gout. Your risk of gout increases if you have a family member who has had gout.
- Diet. Eating a diet high in meat, seafood, sweetened beverages can cause high levels of uric acid, which increases your risk of gout.
Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol, especially of beer, increases the risk of gout. Having had recent surgery or trauma has been associated with an increased risk of developing gout.
Certain medications. Taking thiazide diuretics, low-dose aspirin, or anti-rejection drugs for people who have had an organ transplant can cause high levels of uric acid. Medical conditions. High blood pressure that goes untreated, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and kidney disease.