joint painGout

Overview

Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden and severe joint pain, redness and swelling. While most arthritis is chronic, gout is unique because it generally occurs in acute episodes. Most common in men and post-menopausal women, a buildup of uric acid in the body causes gout. A number of lifestyle choices and medical conditions can increase risk of developing gout. This condition is easily treatable. Medication and lifestyle changes combined can reduce symptoms and prevent recurrence.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The most common symptom of gout is a sudden attack of joint pain. Patients may notice pain, swelling, heat and redness at the site of the attack. Sensitivity to touch in the area is not uncommon. Gout most often affects the big toe, but can affect a patient’s wrists and hands, knees, ankles and feet as well. Even after the acute attack has subsided it is not uncommon for patients to experience a lingering pain for several weeks, but this pain is less severe.

Gout is easily diagnosed. A physician will first discuss symptoms and medical history with the patient. If gout is a possibility, two tests – a blood test and a joint fluid test – can diagnose gout. A blood test is less exact, but indicates elevated uric acid in the blood. During a joint fluid test, a doctor inserts a needle into the joint. The needle extracts fluid from the joint. This fluid is examined under a microscope for urate crystals. When these crystals are present in the joint and a patient experiences gout symptoms, a doctor can confirm a gout diagnosis.

Causes

A buildup of urate crystals in a joint causes gout. Urate crystals form when levels of uric acid in the body are too high. These levels become high when the body produces too much uric acid, or when the kidneys are not eliminating enough uric acid from the body. Uric acid in the body can increase with the regular use of diuretics and low-dose aspirin. Gout is most likely to affect men and post-menopausal women. In addition, several groups are at risk: those who abuse alcohol; individuals with a family history of gout; and people who suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetesContinue reading for Prevention information . . .

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