Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by inflamed, painful joints and is caused by the formation of crystal deposits at the joints.

This type of arthritis can make your joints very painful and swollen. While it usually strikes the big toe, it can affect other joints as well, such as your ankle or knee.

Gout has been referred to as "the disease of kings and the king of diseases." It affects more men than women and is often associated with obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids in the blood), and diabetes.

Cause

The condition is caused by monosodium urate crystal deposits in the joints, which are the result of excess uric acid in the body. The excess uric acid may be caused by an increase in production by the body, poor elimination of the uric acid by the kidneys, or increased intake of certain foods that metabolize into uric acid in the body.

Foods to Avoid

Foods that are high in purines (the component of the food that metabolizes into uric acid) include certain meats, seafood, dried beans, and dried peas. Alcoholic beverages may also increase levels of uric acid in the body. Gout attacks may be triggered by consumption of large quantities of alcohol, consumption of large quantities of protein-rich foods, fatigue, emotional stress, minor surgery, or illness.

Gout Symptoms

Gout is characterized by sudden, recurrent attacks that often occur without warning. Severe, chronic gout may lead to deformity. The symptoms of gout may resemble other medical conditions or problems, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis quickly.

  • Severe, sudden, sharp pain attacks in one or more joints, often at night time (most often the joint in the big toe)
  • Pain attacks lasting days to weeks
  • Swollen joint(s), especially in the foot, toes and ankles
  • Red or purplish, tight, shiny skin over joint
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • General feeling of illness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hard lumps of urate crystal deposits under the skin (called tophi)
  • Warmth and swelling in joint area

Diagnosis

In addition to a complete medical history and a physical examination, a diagnosis of gout may be confirmed with the examination of a fluid sample for the presence of urate crystals.

Treatment and Lifestyle Changes

Limiting alcohol intake and drinking plenty of water can reduce the risk for a gout attack. Avoiding foods high in purine also helps. These foods include liver, anchovies, red meat, shellfish, and gravy.

Medical Reviewer: [Akin, Louise RN, BSN, Bowers, Nancy A. RN, BSN, MPH, Fincannon, Joy RN MN, Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH, Gaskin, Kelley RN, MSN, CPNP, Jenkins, Lee, Pierce-Smith, Daphne RN, MSN, CCRC, FNP] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-03-31T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Did You Know?

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Gout – a painful type of arthritis – often first takes aim at the big toe. It also attacks other parts of the body, including fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and heels, causing stiff and swollen joints.