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Gout: An introduction

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Gout is a kind of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in blood and causes joint inflammation. Acute gout is a painful condition that typically affects one joint. Chronic gout is repeated episodes of pain and inflammation, which may involve more than one joint.

Symptoms of gout may include pain that (usually) affects a single joint, such as the big toe, knee or ankle joint. Patients often describe the pain as throbbing, crushing or excruciating. The affected joint often appears red and warm, tender and swollen. A gout attack may go away after a few days; some people may never have another episode while other may have recurring episodes. Chronic gout, also known as gouty arthritis, has the potential to lead to joint damage and limited range of motion for the affected joints.

Gout is actually caused by having higher than normal levels of uric acid in your body. This may occur if your body makes excessive uric acid or has a hard time eliminating uric acid. A build-up of uric acid (in the fluid around the joints) can develop into uric acid crystals. The formation of such crystals causes the pain and inflammation to occur.

The exact cause of gout is unknown, although it often runs in families. Gout may also develop in patients with certain pre-existing diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and anemia. Additionally, certain medications that interfere with the removal of uric acid from the body may increase the risk of a gout attack. For example, people who take diuretics or water pills, may have higher levels of uric acid in their bloodstream.

Certain medications may be prescribed to lower the levels of uric acid in your bloodstream. More importantly, lifestyle changes can positively impact your overall health and reduce your risk of gout. Such lifestyle changes include decreasing beer intake, losing excessive weight, daily exercise, and limiting your intake of red meat and sugary beverages.

For more information on gout treatment options, visit the arthritis center at Web MD.

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