Gout is a condition that causes pain, inflammation and swelling in one or more of the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but can develop in any joint in the body.
Gout often occurs in attacks that usually last for 3-10 days, after which the joint should feel normal and pain-free again. The attacks are almost impossible to predict and, if not treated, can cause future attacks to be more frequent and last for longer.
Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid (urate) in the bloodstream. Urate is a normally harmless waste product, produced by the body when it breaks down substances known as purines. Purines are found naturally in the body, in some foods and in certain alcohols, including beer, stout and port.
Gout affects around one in 200 adults, most commonly men between 30 and 60 years of age.
Gout rarely affects women because they have a lower level of urate in their bloodstream. When women do develop it, it's usually after the start of the menopause. In rare cases, young people and children can be affected.
Although gout is common, there are a number of effective treatments and medicines that can help ease pain, reduce inflammation and prevent future attacks.
Symptoms of Gout
It is difficult to predict when an attack of gout will occur. Symptoms can develop rapidly over a few hours, and will usually last for between 3-10 days. After this time, the joint will start to feel normal again, and any pain or discomfort should eventually disappear completely.
The primary symptom of gout is acute (sudden and severe) joint pain, usually in the joint of the big toe. Symptoms will often develop during the night, although they can occur at any time. Other symptoms of
The intense pain that gout causes can make walking and getting around difficult. Even the light pressure of a bed cover, or blanket, can be painful. 70% of people will experience their first gout attack in the big toe, and 90% of those with gout will experience pain in this joint at some point. However, although gout is most common in the big toe, it can affect any of your joints. It can also occur in two or more joints at the same time.
Affected joints may include: heels, ankles, knees, fingers, wrists, and elbows.
The sooner symptoms are treated, the more quickly the pain will pass. You may experience symptoms every few weeks, months, or years, but it is impossible to predict when the condition will recur. 62% of people experience a repeat attack of gout within a year. However, some people will only ever experience one attack in their lifetime.