Gout is also known as crystal-induced arthritis. It is a medical condition that sets in when uric acid crystals collect on the joints. At the first stage, gout usually affects the large joints in the big toe. Gradually it can spread to other parts of the body, like the ankles, the instep, the heels and the knees, the wrists and fingers of the hand and the elbows. In severe cases, even the shoulders, hips or spine can be affected. Gout does not spread from one joint to the next.
Uric acid is a metabolic end product that is formed at the time the body breaks down purines present in certain food items. In normal conditions, the uric acid gets dissolved in the blood and gets eliminated from the body through the kidneys into the urine. However, people having a propensity for gout have such high levels of uric acid in their blood that the acid precipitates out in the form of crystals. The crystals get accumulated on the joints and other tissues, leading to inflammation and excruciating pain. A chronic condition can lead to the formation of tophi – lumps formed under the skin due to large deposits on severely affected joints of the elbow, fingers and toes, and even on the external pinna.
Another medical condition, referred to as the pseudo-gout, results from the deposits of calcium-based crystals in the joints.
In almost 90 percent of incidences of gout, men over the age of 40 and menopausal women are affected. An “episode” often takes place during the night. Within 12 to 24 hours of the onset, the afflicted joint becomes severely inflamed and starts to ache rigorously. The gout attack usually lasts about five to 10 days.
The Signs and Symptoms of Gout include:
o Presence of uric acid crystals in joint fluid
o More than one attack of acute arthritis
o Arthritis that develops in 1 day
o Attack of arthritis in only one joint, usually the toe, ankle, or knee
o A painful joint that is swollen, red, and warm
The probable causes of gout include:
o Genetic defects in metabolism resulting in hyper-production and retention of uric acid in the blood
o Kidney failure leading to hampered elimination of uric acid from the body
o Diuretic medications employed in the treatment of heart failure and diabetes.
o Erratic lifestyle, alcohol abuse, purine-rich diet and excess weight
o Surgery or sudden injury, severe illness
Proper understanding of the cause and symptoms of gout can help in achieving a successful cure for gout attacks.