Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a build up of crystals in a joint. It most often affects the joint of the big toe, but can but it can affect other joints as well. Gout may occur in a single attack or become a recurrent problem. During acute attacks, gout can cause pain, swelling, and redness in the affected joint. Periods between acute attacks are usually symptom-free.
Over time, gout can cause permanent damage to the affected joints and the kidneys. Gout can also create a collection of crystals under the skin called tophi. The tophi are visible lumps under the skin that can show up anywhere in the body and become tender during acute attacks. Fortunately, these long term factors are less likely to occur with proper treatment. The earlier gout is detected and treated, the better it can be managed.
Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid crystals in and around a joint. Crystals often form because of high levels of uric acid in the blood.
Uric acid is created and released into the blood during the breakdown of a substance in food called purines. The uric acid is then filtered out of the blood through the kidneys and passes out of the body through urine. Higher than normal levels of uric acid in the blood may be caused by:
What are the risk factors for gout?
What are the symptoms of gout?
How is gout diagnosed?
What are the treatments for gout?
Are there screening tests for gout?
How can I reduce my risk of developing gout?
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What is it like to live with gout?
Where can I get more information about gout?
Gout. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Gout. Updated September 2012. Accessed December 5, 2014.
Gout. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115215/Gout. Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Pittman JR, Bross MH. Diagnosis and management of gout. Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(7):1799-1806.
Questions and answers about gout. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Gout/default.asp#stages. Updated April 2012. Accessed December 18, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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