Gout is an inflammation of the joints caused by having too much urate in your blood. Urate, or uric acid is produced by your body to break down purines in your food and drink. Purines are found in all living things including foods, as they make up the chemical structure of the cells. However, meat, fish and alcoholic drinks have the highest concentration of purines.
As purines are part of cells and cells die, they have to be broken down so that new cells can grow. This is the job of uric acid. If you have too much uric acid or your kidneys aren’t processing it efficiently then it can form into a crystal like substance which irritates your joints and causes pain and swelling. This is gout.
Why Do Some People have too Much Uric Acid?
There are lots of reasons:
• Eating foods with high levels of purines
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Having an underlying kidney disease
• Taking excess diuretics (too much tea, coffee, alcohol) or diuretic medicine
• Taking a vitamin B12 supplement can sometimes cause excess urate in prone individuals
• High blood pressure
• Family history of gout
• Having a very intensive exercise regime
• Injuring a joint – this can predispose you to having gout
• If you have cancer and have been having chemotherapy, this can increase your urate and put you at risk of gout.
Symptoms of Gout:
These include fever, warmth, redness and swelling around your joints, severe joint pain. If you have had gout before or have had it for a while, you may get hard lumps beneath the skin of the affected area.
Areas most affected by gout are your toes, feet, ankles, knees, elbows, fingers and wrists.
You will be offered an X-ray to rule out other causes of your symptoms, particularly if you think you have injured yourself or you participate in vigorous exercise. Fractures or sprains can cause similar symptoms.
If your X-ray is normal, you will be offered a blood test to check the levels of urate in your blood, although this can be inconclusive as other illnesses can cause high urate.