Gouty arthritis or more commonly called gout is a form of arthritis that is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness in joints. It is caused by deposits of needle-like crystals of uric acid and is a complex disorder. Luckily this disorder is treatable and there are ways of keeping it from recurring.

Cause of Gouty Arthritis

The cause of gout is an accumulation of urate crystals that results in inflammation of the joint. Uric acid is a waste product of the body formed from the breakdown of purines which would normally be flushed out by the kidneys through urine. But sometimes when the body either produces too much or excretes too little of this acid, uric acid can build up forming sharp, needle-like crystals (urate) in a joint or surrounding tissue that causes pain, inflammation, and swelling.

These crystal deposits can also cause another condition known as false gout (pseudogout). But pseudogout crystals are made of calcium pyrophosphate dehydrate rather than uric acid. Although pseudogout can affect the big toe, it’s more likely to attack large joints such as the knees, wrists, and ankles.

Signs and Symptoms of Gouty Arthritis

The signs and symptoms of gouty arthritis occur suddenly, often at night, without warning, however, these symptoms are almost always acute.

– Intense Joint Pain

Gouty arthritis generally affects the large joint of the big toe, but can also occur in your feet, ankles, knees, hands, and wrists. The pain usually lasts five to ten days and then stops, it subsides gradually over one to two weeks leaving the joint actually normal and pain-free.

– Inflammation and Redness

The joints that are affected become swollen, tender, and red.

Four Stages of Gouty Arthritis

Gouty arthritis can be categorized into four stages but does not usually progress when proper treatment is given.

– Asymptomatic Hyperuricemia

This stage doesn’t usually require treatment; in this stage, the person has high levels of blood uric acid but no other symptoms.

– Acute Gout / Acute Gouty Arthritis

In this stage of gouty arthritis, hyperuricemia has caused deposits of uric acid crystals in joint spaces, leading to gouty attacks.

– Interval / Intercritical

This is the period between acute gouty arthritis attacks, a person has no symptoms.

– Chronic Tophaceous Gout

This is the advanced stage of gouty arthritis, where the disease has caused permanent damage. However, most never progress to this stage with proper treatment.

Prevention of Gouty Arthritis

There is no exact and sure way of preventing gout. If you already have gout, the doctor may prescribe certain drugs to reduce the risk or lessen the severity of future attacks. Some of these drugs include allopurinol (Zyloprim, Aloprim) and probenecid. When taken daily, these drugs can slow the rate at which uric acid is produced and speed its elimination in the body. Generally, the long-term key to preventing gouty arthritis is keeping uric acid levels within a normal range.

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