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Overview

Gout is one of the most common and complicated types of arthritis. It can strike at any time and affect any age group. Sudden, acute pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness in one or more joints, are some of its characteristics. Sometimes the big toe is most commonly affected.

The attacks can occur at any time of day or night, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night feeling that your big toe has caught fire. Even the weight of the bedsheet on the affected joint may be uncomfortable because the joint is hot, swollen, and sensitive due to inflammation and irritation.

Causes

This condition arises due to the accumulation of the urate crystals in joints, triggering inflammation and excruciating pain. It is a type of arthritis that affects the joints. Urea crystals can form in your blood if you have an excessive amount of uric acid. The body breaks down purines into uric acid.

These chemicals can also be found in some foods, like red meat and liver. Anchovies, scallops, trout, tuna, sardines, and mussels, are just a few examples of seafood that is high in purine. Uric acid levels are raised by consuming alcoholic beverages, mainly beer, and beverages sweetened with fructose which is fruit sugar.

In normal circumstances, uric acid dissolves in the blood. It then passes through the kidneys, resulting in the formation of urine. However, sometimes your body may produce an excessive amount of uric acid and kidneys may excrete an insufficient amount of uric acid that can be built upon a joint, causing sharp, needlelike urate crystals to form and cause swelling, pain, and inflammation. Uric acid may also accumulate in the bloodstream.

If you have a high level of uric acid, you are more likely to develop gout. Your uric acid level in your body can be raised because of the following factors:

Weight: In overweight people, the body produces more uric acid. Consequently, kidneys have a harder time removing them from your system.

Health conditions: The condition can be brought on by a variety of diseases and circumstances. High blood pressure, as well as chronic illnesses like obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and kidney and heart disease, are among the dangers. Some of the factors causing gout flare-ups include:

Medications: Various hypertension medications have been shown to raise uric acid levels in patients. Anti-rejection medications given for individuals who have undertaken organ transplantation may also cause complications in some cases.

Family History: It is a genetic condition that runs in the family. You are more prone to suffer from it if your family members have gout.

Gender or Age: It is more common in males than in females, owing to the fact that women tend to have lower uric acid levels than men. In the course of menopause, women’s uric acid levels gradually rise to levels that are comparable to those found in men. Males are also more likely than females to develop gout symptoms earlier in life, typically between 30 and 50 years of age, while women are more likely than men to develop symptoms after menopause.

Traumatic Event or Surgery: An episode of gout can be triggered by recent surgery or trauma. Certain people may experience gout flare-ups after receiving a vaccination.

Symptoms

The symptoms usually strike without warning, and they strike more frequently at night. Some of them are:

Excruciating joint discomfort: Despite the fact that gout is most commonly associated with the big toe, it can occur in any joint. Hands, feet, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers are among the other joints that are commonly affected by this condition. The pain will most likely be at its worst for the first four to twelve hours after it begins, depending on how severe it is.

Persistent Pain: After the most acute pain has subsided, some joint soreness may persist for a few days.

Redness or inflammation: joint becomes swollen, sensitive, heated, as well as red due to inflammatory response.

Limited Motion: As your gout worsens, you may find yourself unable to move your joints normally.

Diagnosis

Gout is a difficult condition to diagnose. In patients who develop this illness, hyperuricemia is common; however, it is not always present when the condition flares. Furthermore, the vast majority of people who suffer from hyperuricemia do not develop gout.

In order to diagnose joint pain, doctors can perform a joint fluid test, in which fluid is drawn from an inflamed joint using a needle. The presence of urate crystals in the fluid is then determined by testing it.

Because joint infections can have symptoms that are similar to gout, a doctor can perform a joint fluid test to screen for bacteria and rule out a bacterial cause of the joint infection.

Doctors can also perform a blood test to determine uric acid levels in patients.

An ultrasound scan can be used to look for the crystals in joints. X-rays cannot be used to diagnose gout, but they can be used to rule out alternative causes of the condition.

Treatment

Treatment for the majority of the patients involves the use of gout medication to relieve gout pain. In addition to treating the symptoms, medication can be used to diminish the danger of gout-related complications like kidney stones and the formation of tophi (stones in the kidney).

There are several common treatments for this condition, including NSAIDs and corticosteroids. These medications are taken orally and are used to relieve inflammation as well as pain in the affected areas.

Medications that can either reduce uric acid production or improve the ability of kidneys to remove uric acid are also available.

When to See a Doctor

Immediately contact your doctor if you are experiencing sudden and severe pain in a joint. Gout, if left untreated, can cause increased discomfort as well as joint damage and degeneration. It is possible that an infection is causing fever and an inflamed and red joint. If you have a fever and your joint is red and hot, you should seek medical attention as soon as you can.


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