Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling of joints. Gout typically occurs in the big toe, but it may involve almost any joint. Acute attacks of gout usually develop quickly, often at night. Symptoms of an acute attack may include:
Gout affects each person differently. Some people have one episode lasting five to ten days without any future joint problems. A small percentage of people have more frequent, ongoing attacks.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, gout affects approximately 2.1 million Americans. Gout is typically caused by increased levels of uric acid in the blood—a condition known as hyperuricemia—which leads to the formation of uric crystals in a person’s joints. Hyperuricemia is often a side effect of diuretic medications, or "water pills," which are used to get rid of extra body fluid and to lower high blood pressure. Other factors that increase one’s risk of hyperuricemia and/or gout include diet, weight and alcohol use. It is important to note, however, that not everyone who suffers from hyperuricemia gets gout. Episodes of gout can be triggered by:
Your Lahey health care provider will perform an exam where you will be asked to provide a detailed description of your symptoms. If possible, fluid will be removed from a joint and examined under a microscope for evidence of uric acid crystals. A blood test to measure uric acid in the blood will most likely be performed, as well. Repeated episodes of gout can cause permanent damage of the affected joints, leading to stiffness and decreased motion. Treatment for gout is tailored for each individual and typically includes taking medication(s), watching your diet and possibly limiting your alcohol intake. Colchicine and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to relieve the pain and swelling of acute episodes. Medications to control uric acid levels in the blood may be prescribed for those suffering from ongoing attacks of gout. Learn more about gout