Gout affects more than five million people in the United States. More than 5 percent of arthritis cases are diagnosed as gout, which is a very painful form of rheumatic arthritis.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported the following statistics regarding gout:
• Gout is very rare in children and young adults
• Men between 40 and 50 are more likely to develop gout than women
• Women rarely develop gout before menopause
• Gout occurs in approximately 840 out of every 100,000 people
This very painful disease occurs when there is a build-up of uric acid and the acid turns into spike-like crystals which create inflammation in your joints.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) there are four stages of gout:
• Asymptomatic (without symptoms) hyperuricemia
• Acute gout, or acute gouty arthritis
• Interval or intercritical gout
• Chronic tophaceous gout
The NIAMS website defines the four stages of gout as follows:
“Asymptomatic (without symptoms) hyperuricemia. In first stage of gout, a person has elevated levels of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia), but no other symptoms. Treatment is usually not required.
“Acute gout, or acute gouty arthritis. In this stage, hyperuricemia has caused the deposit of uric acid crystals in joint spaces. This leads to a sudden onset of intense pain and swelling in the joints, which also may be warm and very tender. An acute attack commonly occurs at night and can be triggered by stressful events, alcohol or drugs, or the presence of another illness. Attacks usually subside within 3 to 10 days, even without treatment, and the next attack may not occur for months or even years. Over time, however, attacks can last longer and occur more frequently.
“Interval or intercritical gout. This is the period between acute attacks. In this stage, a person does not have any symptoms.
“Chronic tophaceous gout. This is the most disabling stage of gout. It usually develops over a long period, such as 10 years. In this stage, the disease may have caused permanent damage to the affected joints and sometimes to the kidneys.