Gout occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joints. This causes the joints to be inflamed, causing pain.
Gout typically occurs if you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. A high level of uric acid in the blood is called hyperuricemia. However, you could also have normal uric levels and still have gout.
The uric acid can then form crystals in the joints causing the pain and inflammation.
The liver metabolizes uric acid, and the kidneys get rid of it through the urine. Levels of uric acid build up when:
If you have gout and hyperuricemia, your body doesn't eliminate enough uric acid.
Gout is more common in men over the age of 30 years, but gout can occur in men and women at any age. Other factors that may increase your risk of gout include:
Certain foods and beverages may also increase your chances of gout.
Symptoms may include:
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Most people with gout have another attack. This attack may affect many different joints. With recurrent gout, tophi can form. Tophi are chalky deposits of uric acid that most commonly occur in the elbows and earlobes, but may form anywhere
Gout can also lead to other health problems, such as:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A sample of fluid from the affected joint will be taken. This fluid will be tested for uric acid crystals.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Treatment depends on whether the gout is acute or recurrent.
In general, the sooner treatment begins for an acute attack, the more effective it is. Treatment depends on:
Putting an ice pack on the joint may ease the pain. Keeping the weight of clothes or bed covers off the joint can also help.
Medications may include:
General measures used to treat recurrent gout include:
If you have recurrent gout, or you have kidney stones, tophi, or reduced kidney function, you may be given medications:
To help reduce your chance of getting gout:
American Arthritis Society
Arthritis Society of Canada
Canadian Arthritis Network
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 4/24/2014