Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling.
Gout appears to come on suddenly, often in the form of a painfully swollen big toe or lower body joint. In reality, it’s the end result of a process that’s been taking place in the body for a while.
The underlying cause of gout is different from those things that trigger a gout attack. Gout is the result of excess uric acid in the body, a condition called hyperuricemia.
Uric acid is a substance that normally forms when the body breaks down purines, which are found in human cells and in many foods. Uric acid is transported by the blood to the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. However, some people either overproduce uric acid or they produce a normal amount, but their kidneys can’t process it efficiently and an excess of uric acid builds up. Some, but not all, of those people may develop gout.
Lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in certain high-purine foods, obesity and excessive alcohol use – especially heavy beer consumption – also can contribute to development of hyperuricemia and gout.
Symptoms of gout include:
Warmth, pain, swelling, and extreme tenderness in a joint, usually a big toe joint. This symptom is called podagra. The pain often starts during the night. It may get worse quickly, last for hours, and be so intense that even light pressure from a sheet is intolerable.
Very red or purplish skinaround the affected joint. The joint may appear to be infected.
Limited movement in the affected joint.
Peeling and itching of the skin around the affected joint as the gout gets better.