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Health NewsGout is a form of arthritis (Read about "Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases") that most often attacks small joints such as the big toe in sudden severe episodes. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) says it accounts for about five percent of all cases of arthritis and results from deposits of crystals of uric acid in joints and/or connective tissue.

If the body increases its production of uric acid or if the kidneys do not eliminate enough uric acid from the body (Read about "The Urinary System"), levels build up (a condition called hyperuricemia). Hyperuricemia may also result when a person eats too many high purine foods. Foods that may cause problems include:

The first episode of gout often occurs at night. The pain may be so severe that the patient can't even tolerate the weight of a bed sheet on the affected joint. The Arthritis Foundation says this episode may be triggered by stress, by alcohol, or too many high-purine foods, as well as by joint injury or by chemotherapy. (Read about "Stress" "Cancer Treatments")

According to NIAMS, some things can put you at higher risk of developing gout. These include:

In many people, gout initially affects the joints of the big toe (a condition called podagra). But many other joints and areas around the joints can be affected in addition to or instead of the big toe. These include the insteps, ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows. Chalky deposits of uric acid, also known as tophi, can appear as lumps under the skin that surrounds the joints and covers the rim of the ear. Uric acid crystals can also collect in the kidneys and cause kidney stones. (Read about "Kidney Stones")

Treatment options

Doctors can use medicines to treat an acute attack of gout, including:

In addition to medication, NIAMS says people with gout are also advised to avoid high-purine foods and alcohol, and to drink plenty of water, which helps to remove uric acid from the body.

Saturnine gout

There is another kind of gout called saturnine gout. It is caused by exposure to lead, which damages the kidneys and affects the removal of uric acid. Acute attacks often occur in the knee, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Historians believe that the ancient Romans often suffered from saturnine gout because they used lead drinking cups and cooking utensils.

Diagnosing saturnine gout involves finding out a person's exposure to lead as well as various tests for lead in the blood. Treatment involves avoiding further lead exposure and treatments to remove lead from the blood. (Read about "Lead Paint Warning")

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

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