If you have been recently diagnosed with gout or suspect you may be suffering from it, you may be wondering, “Exactly what is gout and what are the symptoms?” The first question is easy enough to answer. Gout is a painful condition that develops when excess crystalized uric acid builds up in the joints and soft tissues of the body. Gout symptoms are caused by the body’s reaction to the buildup of uric acid.
What Is Gout?
Uric acid is a produced when your body breaks down purines, substances that both occur naturally in your body and can be found in many common foods, such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms. Normally, uric acid is removed from the body by the kidneys, but excess levels of uric acid can build up in the body if consumption of purines increases or the kidneys fail to remove uric acid from the blood stream. High blood levels of uric acid is called hyperuricemia, which is itself not dangerous, but which can lead to gout if the excess uric acid crystalizes and deposits in body’s joints and soft tissues.
The Four Stages of Gout
Gout occurs in four stages that are defined by their symptoms. The first stage of gout is asymptomatic hyperuricemia which is defined by high levels of uric acid in the blood without gout symptoms. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia doesn’t usually require treatment. The next stage is acute gout, which is characterized by sudden and intense joint pain and swelling caused by the buildup of crystallized uric acid in the joints. Joints may also be warm and tender to the touch. Onset usually occurs at night, and can be triggered by stress, alcohol, diet or the presence of other diseases in the body. Untreated symptoms can last as long as 10 days, but another attack may not occur for months after symptoms subside. Many people first experience gout pain in their big toes. This condition is known as podagra. The period between bouts of gout is referred to as intercritical gout. The fourth stage of gout, chronic tophaceous gout, occurs when gout goes untreated for long periods, and may result in permanent damage to the joints and kidneys.
“Gout – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gout/ds00090.
“Q&A About Gout.” Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2010. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Gout/default.asp.