What is Gout?

Gout is an extremely painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. These crystals can also deposit in other tissues throughout the body, such as the kidney, which can lead to kidney stones. Gout is more common in men over the age of 45, but it can occur in anyone at any age. Factors ranging from a family history of gout, to having other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, can increase risk for developing gout.

Gout is Serious

During a gout attack, a person experiences sudden and severe episodes of pain, warmth and swelling in one or more joints. While gout often begins in the big toe, attacks can spread to the feet, ankle, wrists, hands and elbows and cause permanent joint damage.

The pain during a gout attack is often so excruciating that many go to an emergency room for relief. On a pain scale of one to 10, most gout patients rank their pain as a nine or a 10. Many report that during an attack, the affected joint feels as if it is caught in a mechanical device. Even the thought of a bed sheet touching the joint is enough to make them cringe.

Gout attacks come on quickly and can last for several days. After a first attack, most people will experience another painful flare within a year. More than three in four gout sufferers will have another attack within two years. Subsequent attacks often are more severe and last longer.

Treatment is Necessary

Despite the severity of gout, just 10 percent of sufferers are getting needed, ongoing treatment.

Left untreated, gout can lead to permanent joint damage and other health issues such as kidney stones. Extensive destruction of the joints and large tophi (crystals which form under the skin) can lead to deformities – particularly of the hands and feet – and result in loss of normal use.

While gout is a lifelong condition, it can be managed – or even completely controlled – by sticking with a proper treatment plan that combines the right medication with diet and lifestyle changes. Because gout is associated with other serious health issues, an accurate diagnosis and ongoing management is critical.