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Man on bedding suffering symptoms of Gout

What are the Symptoms of Gout: Signs, Causes, & More

Sep 7, 2023

Gout is an inflammatory arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in your joints. Uric acid is a normal body waste product, resulting from the breakdown of purines, a type of protein found in food. In the United States alone, roughly 9.2 million people suffer from this disease.

Living with gout can be severely stressful for the person who has it. It can cause pain and discomfort, as well as cause several physical limitations. It can also impact your daily activities and make it nearly impossible for you to engage in recreational activities.

Pain in the joints isone of the clearest symptoms of a gout, but it’s really not that simple. While the pain is not always present in patients who gave gout, the buildup of the uric acid crystals is still taking place and as such, you never know when you’ll have a gout attack flare-up, meaning you’ll learn to live in fear of the next painful episode. Overall, living with gout can lead to a significantly reduced quality of life.

Here’s how you can recognize gout, understand its risk factors, and what you can do about it.

What are the symptoms of gout?

Most of the time, there are no symptoms of gout. However subtle symtpoms may be present even if you do not have a gout attack. Since, gout is an illness that attacks your joints. The most common signs of this illness are:

  • Severe pain (that is the gout attack)
  • Swelling of joints
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Limited mobility
  • Tophus formation (accumulation of uric acid crystals masses just under the skin)

Other than this, it’s important to understand that these signs won’t always be present. They’ll appear in recurring flare-ups, and how frequent they are depends on the severity of the condition.

    Sometimes, uric acid crystals can aggregate to a point where you can see and feel them. In rare cases, these tophi can rupture and get infected.

    Needless to say, in its advanced stages, gout leads to various joint deformities.

    What are the causes of gout?

    Uric acid is a waste product created by a breakdown of purines, which you can find in some foods. You normally have a certain amount of uric acid in your blood, but when this amount is too high, it may form crystals in the joints and surrounding areas.

    When asking what is the main cause of gout, it’s important to start with the kidneys. Kidneys are responsible for excreting uric acid, which is why an illness that affects them also increases the risk of gout. Medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or heart disease may also make you at risk.

    Diuretics are also known to increase the risk of gout by reducing the ability of your kidneys to excrete uric acid.

    Then, there are many foods that cause gout. One of the causes of gout is a diet that heavily relies on:

    • Red meats
    • Organ meats
    • Liver
    • Kidneys
    • Anchovies
    • Sardines

    When pinpointing the main cause of gout, sometimes it’s important to mention alcoholic beverages, which also contain high concentrations of purines (especially beer). On top of that, alcohol causes dehydration, another major cause of an increased uric acid level in your blood.

      Obesity is also often associated with higher uric acid levels. Since it may also increase insulin resistance, the risk is even higher.

      Risk Groups

      There are several risk groups that you should definitely pay attention to.

      • Sex: Men are more likely to show signs of gout than women. Estrogen helps with uric acid's excretion, making this condition less likely in females.
      • Age: Few people develop gout early in life. It usually happens in middle age or later. While it’s unknown what causes gout in females, it’s noticed that it’s highly unlikely to happen before menopause.
      • Family history: If some of your relatives or ancestors struggle with gout, you’re in a risk group.
      • Ethnicity: For some reason, people of Pacific Islander, Māori (New Zealand), and some African Americans seem to be more likely to develop gout than others.
      • Lead exposure: This one was more prevalent in the past, but it’s still not a factor to be easily discarded.

      Again, just because you’re in a risk group doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get it. It’s just that the risk is somewhat higher.

      What types of gout are there?

      There are two types of gout, depending on the stage of progression. You have:

      • Acute gout: This is the first stage in which you have painful flare-ups that may last 24-48 hours and then subside over days or weeks.
      • Chronic gout: If you don’t treat acute gout for too long, you may develop chronic gout, where your flare-ups are recurrent and result in excruciating pain.

      There are two additional forms of gout worth discussing.

      • Asymptomatic hyperuricemia: This is a condition where you have elevated levels of uric acid in your blood but lack any symptoms of gout. This may, eventually, grow into a conventional gout but it doesn’t have to be the case.
      • Tophaceous gout: In some scenarios, uric acid crystals will form nodules or lumps (known as tophi) visible under the skin. This is usually a sign of long-standing gout.

      Some people classify gout by the location of the inflammation. There’s some logic to this since there’s a difference in treatment for gout in the hands compared to gout of the foot.

      How to treat gout?

      In many cases, gout is not fully curable. However, you can manage symptoms of gout quite effectively. There are three fronts on this: the first is to treat the pain of a gout attack, the second is to help keep the uric acid at the lowest levels possible, and finally there is treatment of other conditions which bring about gout.

      With the help of:

      • Medication (like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and colchicine)
      • Lifestyle modification (better diet, better hydration, avoiding alcohol)
      • Treating underlying conditions

      At the very least, you should look up the best diet for those with gout and try incorporating at least some of these meals into your weekly menu.

        This way, you can alleviate gout symptoms and prevent the illness from progressing. Some of these methods (especially medication) may even provide immediate gout pain relief.

        How to prevent gout?

        A few things can drastically reduce your likelihood of developing gout.

        • First, you want to maintain a healthy weight.
        • Second, avoid alcohol and pay attention to your hydration.
        • Avoid purine-rich foods (organ meats, red meat, seafood).
        • Manage underlying health conditions and talk to your healthcare provider.

        These few tips alone should help you deal with this issue quite effectively.

        Wrap up

        In the end, while gout is sometimes genetic or caused by an illness that you can’t prevent, it still depends on the input of purines into your organism, which you can control. Gout is a serious problem for your quality of life, so as soon as you notice the first symptoms, you should talk to a medical professional and devise a plan to treat/control it.

        To learn more, find a foot expert experienced in treating gout at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

        This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.