Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate
around your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout
attack. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid
in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines
— substances that are found naturally in your body — as well as in
certain foods, such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and
Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood
and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes your
body either produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too
little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming
sharp, needle-like urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that
cause pain, inflammation and swelling.
The signs and symptoms of gout are almost
always acute, occurring suddenly — often at night — and without
warning. They include:
- Intense joint pain.
Gout usually affects the large joint of your big toe, but it can occur
in your feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists. The pain is likely to be
most severe within the first 12 to 24 hours after it begins.
- Lingering discomfort.
After the most severe pain subsides, some joint discomfort may last
from a few days to a few weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer
and affect more joints.
- Inflammation and redness.
The affected joint or joints become swollen, tender and red.
When to see a doctor
If you experience sudden, intense pain
in a joint, call your doctor. Gout that goes untreated can lead to
worsening pain and joint damage.
Seek medical care immediately if you have a
fever and a joint is hot and inflamed, which can be a sign of
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