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Gout is a type of arthritis which generally affects the joints at the end of the extremities like the fingers, toes, and ankles. The build-up of uric acid forms crystals in the joints and causes excruciating pain and severe swelling. Men over the age of 30 are more likely to develop the condition than women, but post-menopausal women can contract the illness. Overall, gout is more common in men. People with diets high in alcohol, red meat, and shellfish may be more likely to experience these symptoms of gout than those with a balanced and healthy nutritional profile.

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Pain

One of the most pronounced symptoms of gout is extreme pain. Arthritis is already a condition that causes chronic discomfort, but the excess uric acid in the joints that form crystals can be debilitating. Some people with gout report that it's difficult to perform everyday activities like walking around the house. Others comment that the weight of a light blanket on the area affected by gout is too painful to withstand.

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Different Types of Gout

There are different types of gout: pseudogout, asymptomatic hyperuricemia, chronic tophaceous gout, interval and acute gout. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia refers to high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream, before outward symptoms of gout are seen. Pseudogout is often confused with gout, but the cause is calcium phosphate crystals versus uric acid ones. Chronic tophaceous gout is the most severe type of the disease, brought on by long-term neglect. Acute gout occurs when the uric acid crystals deposit quickly into the joints causing severe pain and swelling. Interval gout occurs after acute gout sets into the joints.

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Swelling

It's typical for gout to form in the big toe first but can affect the fingers, toes, ankles, or wrists. Pain and swelling soon follow as the primary hallmarks for this condition. The body breaks down purines found in foods like seafood, red meat, and alcohol which produces uric acid. Usually, uric acid breaks down in the blood and travels through the kidneys and excreted from the body via urine. However, when the body creates too much uric acid, and the kidneys fail to adequately process enough of the acid, it builds to needle sized crystals in the joints and surrounding areas causing inflammation, pain, and sometimes severe swelling.

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Risk Factors

Gout typically occurs in men over the age of 30, but post-menopausal women can also develop the condition. There are other risk factors which contribute to the onset of this painful and debilitating illness like obesity, diet, and hereditary. Alcohol and a fatty diet can lead to gout in older individuals. Beer and fructose-sweetened drinks in combination with ingesting too much red meat, pork, or seafood high in purines can also increase your risk of getting gout. An obese body produces more uric acid and has more difficulty excreting the acid from the body. Obesity can lead to the build-up of urate crystals in the joints and may cause gout. If an immediate family member has had gout, you'll be more likely to contract the illness. Medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease also mean you're more likely to experience gout in your lifetime.

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Medical Conditions and Trauma

Medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic disease all come with a higher risk to the individual developing gout. If your body produces more uric acid than it can successfully process and excrete through urine, then it's more likely you'll develop gout. Surgery and traumatic injuries to the body can also cause gout.

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Recurrent Flares of Gout

Gout isn't a condition which resolves on its own. Many people experience symptoms of the illness several times a year. It's vital that you discuss your symptoms with a general practitioner and receive proper medical attention. There are long-term consequences if gout remains untreated. The urate crystals can destroy the affected joint and surrounding tissue.

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Tophi and Gout

If gout goes untreated for an extended length of time, the individual may develop nodes of uric crystals underneath the skin called tophi. Tophi can occur in the feet, hands, fingers, elbows, Achilles tendons, and the rear of the ankles. Tophi don't generally cause pain but can swell and be tender during active flares of gout.

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Kidney Stones

Kidney stones may form when uric acid crystals gather and build-up in the urinary tract of those individuals with gout. Ultimately, a urate crystal accumulation in the urinary tract can lead to the production of kidney stones. Discuss with your doctor about medications that can reduce your chances of getting kidney stones.

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Avoiding Flares

There are a few precautions you can take to reduce your chances of experiencing a gout flare-up. Drinking plenty of water while avoiding any drinks with high-fructose corn syrup can help prevent another round of painful gout symptoms. Cutting out alcohol, mainly beer can also lower the level of purines in your system. Try a plant-based diet and seek out low-fat dairy products as a protein source. Cow, chicken, pork, and seafood products all contribute to high uric acid levels in your body. A vegetarian diet has many positive aspects which contribute to an overall healthy body. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent flares of gout. Talk to your doctor if you need to lose weight.

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Seek Medical Help

If you experience the symptoms of gout and haven't been diagnosed it's essential that you seek medical advice to receive the proper treatment. People who experience increasingly severe swelling and joint pain should also talk to their doctor as soon as possible. Individuals with a high temperature or fever shouldn't delay getting medical treatment. Gout doesn't go away on its own and can permanently damage your joint tissue and renal systems.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.