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Is it Gout?

Not a polite disease

Gout isn't a very polite disease. It tends to sucker-punch you in the middle of the night with no prior warning. Sneaky it is and painful, too. It hurts like a son of a gun. They (the doctors) call sudden, intense pain 'acute'. Hah! You think to yourself. There's nothing cute about gouty arthritis.

Gout gets you by the toe

Most often, gout gets you by the toe: the big toe, to be exact. But it doesn't have to start there. Any place you've got joints (wrists, hands, knees, ankles, feet) is fair play as far as gout is concerned, though you probably don't find it fair at all. You've got intense joint pain, and it's not going away any time soon. You waited awhile before calling the doctor, because you don't want to be a baby, but it's outlasting your patience.

In fact, if left untreated, gout pain lasts for an average of 10 days. During the attack the joint is swollen, red, and tender. The pain ends in a gradual manner over a period of a week or two and then it's gone. The affected joint looks and feels completely normal.

Once the discomfort is over, you're left relieved but bewildered, wondering how that happened, and hoping it won't happen again. Maybe if you learn something about the disease, you'll get some clues about how to prevent another attack. The first thing you discover if that gout is what happens when urate crystals form around the affected joint. It's the crystals that are the culprits responsible for the pain and inflammation of a gout attack. Your body forms these crystals when uric acid builds up in your bloodstream.

That radical idea has you scratching your head. Isn't uric acid something that is found in urine? Well, on a good day, in fact, it is. Healthy kidneys act as a filter for the blood, removing things like excess uric acid from your blood. However, with gout, the body is either making too much uric acid for the kidneys to cope with, or your kidneys aren't functioning as they should, meaning that not enough uric acid is excreted from your system.

Your body makes uric acid as it breaks down substances called purines that are found throughout the body, as well as in certain foods such as mushrooms, asparagus, herring, anchovies, and organ meats. If not excreted, uric acid forms sharp, needle-like crystals around your joints.