Gout is a common form of arthritis that usually affects the joint at the base of the big toe, though it can cause symptoms in the fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles, as well. Symptoms develop when the levels of uric acid in the blood become too high due to excessive consumption of purines. These chemicals are present in meats and alcohol, as well as other foods, and the kidneys cannot always excrete them quickly enough. As a result, urate crystals accumulate in the affected joint.
For most people with gout, severe pain in the big toe is the first symptom. The buildup of urate crystals in the joint causes this pain and usually affects only one joint at a time, though it can spread to other joints in subsequent flares. The first 36 hours or so are often the most painful. Joint pain from gout usually resolves in about a week to 10 days.
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