What is Gout? – Symptoms, Stages and Treatment of Gout

what is gout

Gout is the name of a common yet complex medical condition caused due to abnormal uric acid in a human body. This complex condition arises due to high uric acid buildup, which is called ‘Hyperuricemia’ in medical terminology.

Uric acid is basically a by-product of chemical break down by a human body of a product called purines, which is excreted from the human body through urine. However, sometimes the body over-produces uric acid, due to which it converts into crystallized form and collects around joints, mainly lower body joints such as the lower part of the largest toe.

Foot of gout patient. Painful and inflamed gout.
Foot of gout patient. Painful and inflamed gout.

What is Gout?

Gout is, in fact, an excruciating form of arthritis which occurs suddenly, but causes extreme distress and trouble to a human body, at times in the form of swollen feet, severe body ache, stiffness and tenderness of joints.

Gout often causes intensely traumatizing pain in the joints due to swelling and tenderness. Pain is sudden, intolerable, and arises often at night waking you up in the middle of night.

Gout can be triggered due to various factors. These factors may include the diet you follow, medicines you swallow, alcohol that you gulp, or severe injuries and illness. Higher level of purine intake can contribute in causing hyperuricemia or gout.

However, adopting necessary alterations in your lifestyle can save you from suffering from gout.

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What is Pseudogout?

Most of the times, pseudogout is confused with gout. Despite the fact that symptoms of pseudogout are very similar to gout, both conditions are different from each other. The major difference is that pseudogout is caused due to high calcium level in the body, resulting in the formation of calcium phosphate crystals, rather than a high level of acid crystals in the body. Pseudogout is also treated differently.

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Symptoms of gout

Those suffering from gout most commonly feel severe pain in the big toe. This happens in 70 percent of the cases of gout. Gout attacks occur suddenly without warning due to which the big toe becomes swollen, red and tender. Gout pain mostly occurs at night time.

Other symptoms include pain and swollen joints like ankles, wrists, and knees. If not treated properly uric acid crystals can take the shape of lumps and the pain can last for years, making the patients suffer from frequent attacks of excruciating pain. Gout pain is so cruel that even the slightest vibrations from slamming doors can cause pain, and even the weight of light bedsheets seems unbearable.

Untreated gout can also result in formation of kidney stones.

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inflamed gout in the foot
Foot of gout patient. Painful and inflamed gout.

4 Stages of gout

Gout progression consists of various stages which might be experienced in different kinds of gout. Gout takes place in four main stages:

1. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia

This is the initial stage of gout. During this stage, uric acid crystals start forming in the human body, slightly damaging the tissues. In this stage, there may not be any outward symptoms or signs of gout experienced by an individual. However uric acid quantities are high and crystal formation starts.

2. Acute gout

In this stage, gout attacks an individual. Here, high uric acid level pushes the urate crystal penetrated in the joints to trigger and cause immense pain in the joints. Other symptoms include redness, hotness, tenderness and loss of functions of joints. This pain can be the result of either drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or even due to extreme cold weather. Gout pain flares at night and intensifies over 8-12 hours. The pain can ease and is likely to go away in 10 days of so. However, gout patients are expected to receive the next gout pain within one year of two years.

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3. Intercritical or interval gout

This is the stage which occurs after suffering extreme gout attack. The attack may go on for several months or for several years. However, uric acid crystals keep forming in the body and depositing in the tissues, causing further damage. It may introduce new rounds of gout attacks if not properly treated or medicated.

4. Chronic gout

If gout is not treated properly at its initial stage, it converts into chronic gout. This is the stage when permanent damages have been caused, due to excess production of acid by the body. Urate crystals form and settle permanently in the joints. This stage is curable with proper treatment and medication.

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Treatment of gout

Gout pain can be soothed with the help of certain medications. Commonly used medicines for the purpose of gout treatment include non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory, colchicine, or corticosteroid. These medicines help in reducing risks for a gout attack in the future and also support reduction of gout-related complications. Different medicines used for gout treatment can either be used to reduce the risk of inflammation of gout or for improving the functioning of kidneys in order to excrete the right amount of acid from the human body.

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colchicine tablets
Colchicine 0.6 mg tablets pills

As a saying goes: ‘Prevention is better than cure’, and it is wise to follow it as well. It is in your best interest to approach your doctor as soon as possible to get gout treated before it is too late. Not only can you minimize gout attacks through medical treatments, but you can also actively work to reduce it by taking certain preventative measures. Following a diet plan which excludes gout triggering items would not only decrease the pain but also help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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