FAQ: What is gout?
Gout is a rheumatic disease, which means that it affects the joints, most often in the lower extremities such as the ankle, knee, and toe joints. 80 percent of people who suffer from gout will experience inflammation in the big toe. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis, although unlike other forms of arthritis, it is most often episodic, rather than chronic. However, episodic attacks can lead to acute and chronic forms of the disease.
FAQ: What causes gout?
Gout is caused by the accumulation of needle-like urate crystals in joints. These crystals are formed when too much uric acid, a byproduct of the breakdown of purine metabolism, forms in the blood. Under normal conditions uric acid dissolves in the blood and is passed through the kidneys and out of the body in urine, but when the body either fails to excrete the uric acid, or produces too much uric acid, gout can occur.
Eating foods that are high in purines, such as seafood (mussels, herring, sardines, anchovies, salmon, haddock, and trout) and meats (mutton, veal, bacon, turkey, partridge, pheasant, and animal organs), can be a contributing factor. People who are obese or drink a large amount of alcohol are also at an increased risk. Drinking beverages high in sugar has also been shown to increase the risk of developing gout by as much as 85%, especially in men.
FAQ: What are the symptoms of gout?
Gout is often characterized by an intense throbbing pain in one of the joints of the big toe, knees, heels, ankles, wrists, elbows, or fingers. It often occurs at night and can be excruciating enough to wake a person from sleep. The joint will often appear red and swollen and feels warm to the touch. It is usually very painful to touch and it can be difficult to place clothing or a sheet on the affected area. It is sometimes accompanied by a fever.
Attacks can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, usually progressing in length after the initial attack. Over half of patients who suffer from a gout attack will have another attack, with future attacks likely to be more severe and more frequent, leading to greater joint damage.
FAQ: How is gout diagnosed?
Gout is usually diagnosed by a medical practitioner. It is important for medicine to be taken as soon as possible after a gout attack as gout that is left untreated can lead to joint damage and increased pain. Your doctor will likely order a series of tests, including a synovial fluid analysis which involves the insertion of a needle into the inflamed joint in order to test for uric acid crystals. Blood might also be drawn or x-rays of the joint taken.
FAQ: How common is gout?
Gout was once considered the disease of kings and nobility because of its tendency to affect people eating diets primarily comprised of purine rich meat and alcohol. These days, it is much more common regardless of social class. Men are often more likely than women to develop gout as they naturally tend to have higher levels of uric acid than women. However after menopause, women become much more likely to develop gout as their uric acid levels rise and approach levels often found in men.
In 2005 over 6.1 million people reported having had gout within their lifetime, with those under 20 years having the lowest numbers and adults aged 70-79 having the highest rates.