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What is Gout?

The word ‘gout’ is believed to have been derived from the French word ‘gote’ and the Latin word ‘gutta’ which means a drop.  In earlier times people thought that gout resulted from the seepage and accumulation of humors from a person’s blood into joints resulting to extreme pain. Though not scientifically correct their suppositions were not far off from the right definition of gout.

Scientifically, gout is known to be caused by excessive amounts of uric acid in the body. This high concentration of uric acid in the body leads to the formation of minute urate crystals that eventually get deposited in various body tissues especially around joints. These urate crystals are responsible for causing a sharp recurring pain in joints that is experienced by people suffering from gout.

Continued deposition of these crystals around joint areas has a damaging effect on joints and may also result to reduced functionality of a person’s kidneys or even formation of kidney stones (a condition known as nephrolithiasis).

This disease is linked to an abnormality in a person’s body inability to process uric acid in their system; the abnormality is believed to be inheritable through certain human genes.

Where does this uric acid come from?

Uric acid is produced in our bodies from the breakdown of purines that are usually contained most foods that we consume. When your body is incapable of processing uric acid you start developing gout.

Apart from kidney stones, excessive accumulation of uric acid in the body may cause blockage of tubules in the kidney. The function of these kidney tubules in our system is to filter waste products from our blood stream. Thus blockage of the tubules is detrimental to the kidneys because it leads to kidney failure.

In other people this excessive amount of uric acid does not lead to gout but to the development of hyperuricemia a condition that is characterized by high levels of uric acid in the blood stream.

Anyone can develop gout, but research shows that the condition is more prevalent among men than women. However after reaching the menopause stage, the chances of women developing gout increases. Gout is mostly known to attack one localized joint in the body; the joints in the big toe are most susceptible.

Other areas that may be affected by gout include;

  • Ankles
  • The arches of a person’s feet
  • Fingers
  • Wrist and elbow joints
  • The heel and knee joints

When you develop gout, it may cause;

  • Swelling
  • Redness in the affected area
  • Localized pain
  • Stiffening of the affected joints

Diagnosis of gout

To be sure you are suffering from gout; the presence of urate crystals in the joint that is affected has to be confirmed. If the physician finds tiny urate crystals suspended in the joint fluid then it is surely a case of gout.  On its own, the level of uric acid in the blood cannot be used as an effective way of diagnosing gout. This is because the levels of uric acid may be low and yet you are actually suffering from gout, in fact the level of uric acid in blood is usually higher in people who are not suffering from gout. In order to get an accurate diagnosis, the physician usually has to conduct a test to verify the presence of crystals in the affected joints.

Gout can be categorized into 4 major stages:

  1. Asymptomatic gout; in this stage there is usually higher levels of uric acid in the blood but the person experiences no symptoms associated with gout.

2.  Acute gouty arthritis stage; characterized by symptoms of pain around joints where deposition of urate crystals has taken place. Other symptoms include inflammations, swelling and reddening of the affected area.

  1. Intercritical or interval gout stage; this is the stage between the first attack and a subsequent attack of gout in a joint, characterized with minimal or no symptoms linked to gout.  Your joint functionality will be normal with no pain being experienced.
  1. Polyarticluar or chronic Tophaceous gout stage: this is the most serious form of gout, characterized by severe damage to the joints, development of kidney stones or even kidney failure.

In conclusion, if you suspect that you are suffering from gout it will be best if you see a doctor immediately, but it is also advisable to go for regular checkups to have better chances of detecting and treating it in its early stages.

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