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What Is Gout Sickness? Causes of Gout Symptoms

Updated on September 29, 2010

What Is Gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by uric acid buildup in the blood. Gout is sometimes referred to as metabolic arthritis, gouty arthritis, or urarthritis. Gout causes the uric acid to become crystallized deposits in the joints and tendons. These deposits cause pain and swelling.

Gout Toe Is One of the Symptoms of Gout

Gout Symptoms

A gout attack can last for just a few hours up to a week. A gout attack will usually come on suddenly with no warning. The pain from gout can be extemely severe, with even clothing causing pain during an attack of gout. A gout attack most often occurs at night after going to sleep.

The symptoms of gout are easy to spot. Gout will most often cause intensely painful feet and toes, especially the big toe. Gout symptoms sometimes occur in other areas of the body, such as the ankles, wrists, knees, hands, elbows, or even the ears. Swelling, a feeling of warmth, burning, and stiffness in the painful areas may also occur during a gout attack.

Left untreated, gout can lead to other problems. Sometimes the urate crystals will form in the kidney or urinary tract, resulting in kidney stones or more serious kidney conditions. Gout can also contribute to diabetes and high blood pressure.

What Causes Gout?

Uric acid is built up when certain foods are eaten. Most people have no problem eliminating excess uric acid from the body. People with gout lack enough of a certain digestive enzyme that helps excrete uric acid from the body. Some of the foods that affect gout sufferers are alcohol, soft drinks, fried food, red meat, some seafoods, and asparagus. Some people can completely get rid of gout by eliminating these problem foods.

Gout can be caused by several other factors including stress, joint injury, fasting, dehydration, prolonged use of antibiotics, thyroid disorders, certain vitamin deficiencies, leukemia, and psoriasis. Lead poisoning is thought to be a possible cause of some cases of gout.

Almost all gout sufferers are overweight, middle aged men. Gout is much more common in some races. Natives of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands have a high rate. African Americans are much more likely to contract gout than Caucasians. It can be hereditary, and about 1/4 of gout sufferers know someone else they are related to that has the painful joint condition. If women contract gout, it is usually after menopause when hormone levels drops.

Treatment for Gout

Conventional treatment for gout is anti-inflammatory medications and drugs that prevent formation of uric acid. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are used to help control the pain and swelling. Some studies have suggested that the use of aspirin for gout worsens the condition. The most commonly prescribed drug for gout is allopurinol. Allopurinol can have side effects including liver and kidney damage.

An interesting study has shown that drinking coffee may help prevent gout. The study did not test subjects already diagnosed with gout, so it is not certain if drinking coffee daily can help sufferers with gout symptoms.


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