Gout is an inflammatory arthritis that more commonly affects men. Gout tends to affect men after the age of 40 and women after menopause. It causes sudden and severe joint pain that usually starts in the big toe. However, other joints can also be affected, such as the ankle, knee, foot, hand, wrist and elbow. Surrounding tendons and soft tissue around the joint can also be swollen during an attack.
Symptoms in the affected joints may include pain, swelling, redness and warmth around the joint. They start suddenly and can last 7-14 days in most cases. You may also experience recurrent gout flares. Gout flares are followed by periods of remission without symptoms before another flare begins.
Gout is caused by a condition known as hyperuricemia, where there is an excess of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced in the body during the breakdown of purines, which are found in certain foods in larger amounts such as red meats and seafood. When there is too much uric acid in the body, uric acid crystals can build up in joints and tissues within the body. You are more likely to increase your chances of developing gout if you:
- Are a middle-aged man or postmenopausal woman
- Have parents, siblings, or other family members with gout
- Drink alcohol
- Take medications such as diuretics
- Have a condition like kidney disease and kidney stones
Management of gout involves lowering your blood uric acid level with medications and self-management strategies. Compliance with your treatment plan is important. Lifestyle changes such as gradual weight loss, avoidance of alcohol and reduced consumption of foods high in purines may make it easier to manage gout.
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