Gout is a common, painful form of arthritis that causes swollen, red, hot and stiff joints. Gout happens when uric acid builds up in your body. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of substances called purines. Purines are in your body’s tissues and in foods such as liver, dried beans, peas, and anchovies.
Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood. It passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. But sometimes uric acid can build up and form needle-like crystals. When they form in your joints, it is very painful. The crystals can also cause kidney stones.
Often, gout first attacks your big toe. It can also attack ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. At first, gout attacks usually get better in days. Eventually, attacks last longer and happen more often.
You are more likely to get gout if you:
- Are a man
- Have family member with gout
- Are overweight or obese
- Drink alcohol
- Have been exposed to lead
- Eat too many foods rich in purines
- Take medications including diuretics, aspirin, levodopa, and niacin
Gout can be hard to diagnose. Your doctor may take a sample of fluid from an inflamed joint to look for crystals. Gout can be treated with a variety of medicines.