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Gouty Arthritis Part I: What is Gout?

What is gout?

Gout is actually a form of arthritis.  It can occur in either gender, but is more common in men. The incidence of gout in women increases in frequency after menopause.  Episodes of gout can be sudden and may occur as an episode of pain, redness and/or tenderness in a joint. The base of the great toe is a common site for gout attacks. The affected joint may feel as if it is on fire; redness and tenderness can be so severe that even the weight of a bed sheet may be intolerable.

The symptoms of gout, as mentioned can occur suddenly without warning. They include intense joint pain, commonly in the big toe. Other joints can be affected by this as well, including the feet, ankles, knees, hands or wrists.  The pain is most likely to be severe during the first twelve to twenty four hours from onset. Some discomfort may linger, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.  Swelling, redness and tenderness may persist.

The good news is--the cause of gout has been determined!  Uric acid is a byproduct of metabolism of purines in the human system, as well as food sources( examples: anchovies, mushrooms, and asparagus). it is usually excreted by the kidneys, but sometimes it builds up in the human system--either due to excessive intake or reduced clearance by the renal system.  This excess can lead to the deposit of urate crystals in the joints. The urate crystals are the cause of gout attacks when they are deposited in an affected joint in excess.

There are a number of risk factors for gout. Some of them are preventable, while others are not. 
Knowing about the preventable factors can help reduce the risk of a gouty attack.  

Gout Risk Factors

Lifestyle factors: Excessive alcohol intake (more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day
                            for women) increases the risk of gout.

Medical conditions: Untreated hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis,and hyperlipidemia are all 
                                 known to increase the likelihood of gout.

Family history: If other family members are known to have gout, there is a risk to all relatives of
                         those individuals.

Medications: Usage of thiazide diuretics, some anti-rejection drugs, and low dose aspirin are known to
                       increase the risk of gout.

Age and gender: As mentioned earlier, men have a higher risk of gout than women. However, once
                            a women reaches the age of menopause, gout risk will likely increase.

Complications of gout include recurrent attacks, the development of "tophi" (crystal formation under the skin--appears as a nodule), and the risk of kidney stones caused by the collection of uric acid in the kidneys.

Sources: MayoClinic; SBR Sport,the free dictionary


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