Gout is a disease characterized by an abnormal metabolism of uric acid, resulting in an excess of uric acid in the tissues and blood. People with gout either produce too much uric acid, or more commonly, their bodies have a problem in removing it. There are a number of possible consequences of this buildup of uric acid in the body, including acute and chronic gouty arthritis, kidney stones, and local deposits of uric acid (tophi) in the skin and other tissues. Gout may occur alone (primary gout) or may be associated with other medical conditions or medications (secondary gout).
The prevalence of gout appears to be increasing. It is currently estimated to be affecting over 6 million Americans.
Gouty arthritis is a common cause of a sudden onset of a painful, hot, red, swollen joint, particularly in the foot at the big toe. Gouty arthritis is reportedly the most common cause of inflammatory arthritis in men over the age of 40. It is definitively diagnosed by detecting uric acid (monosodium urate) crystals in an aspirated sample of the joint fluid. These uric acid crystals can accumulate in the joint and tissues around the joint over years, intermittently triggering repeated bouts of acute inflammation. Repeated "attacks" of gouty arthritis, or "flares," can damage the joint and lead to chronic arthritis. Fortunately, while gout is a progressive disease, there are effective medications to treat gout.
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