Gout is a type of arthritis that results from the buildup of uric acid in the tissues or a joint. This buildup crystalizes and causes the joint to become inflamed. Gout is painful and usually affects one joint (the big toe).
People who have gout may have a harder time eliminating the uric acid from their systems or their bodies produce excess uric acid. Gout occurs most commonly in the big toe because at cooler temperatures uric acid crystalizes. Your toe is the coolest part of your body because it is the furthest from your heart– and, thus, it’s most likely to get gout. However, gout can affect any joint in the body.
The tendency to accumulate uric acid is often inherited.
- High blood pressure
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating certain foods: shellfish, organ meats (liver, kidney, etc.), red wine, beer, and red meat
Certain medications like hydrochlorothiazide or other water pills, diuretics, and vitamins can affect your body’s ability to remove uric acid properly. While gout is more common in middle aged men, it can occur in younger men as well as in postmenopausal women.
An attack of gout can be miserable, marked by the following symptoms:
- Pain that often starts in the middle of the night or early in the morning
- Possibly fever
- Inflammation, redness, swelling, and warmth over the joint(s)
- Medications to reduce inflammation and treat the pain
- Your doctor may put you on a special diet
- Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks that cause dehydration like alcohol
- Rest your foot and keep it elevated to help reduce swelling
If the problem persists, your doctor may prescribe medications. If left untreated, the gout can cause permanent damage.