Gout is a type of arthritis wherein patients experience pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints and other tissues. The disease usually attacks your joints in the big toe, but joints in the fingers, knees and hips aren’t spared either.
The word gout means “a drop,” derived from the Latin word “gutta” and the old French word “gote.” People with the disease initially thought that the pain was caused by "humour," a body fluid that was said to determine a person’s features and temperament being “dropped” into the joints affected.1
Apart from your joints, gout also affects the bursae, the thin and slippery sacs found all over the body that serve as cushions between bones and soft tissues. The olecranon bursa at the boney tip of the elbow and the prepatellar bursa at the front of the kneecap are the areas most prone to gout flare-ups.2
Gout attacks can also spread to your tendon sheaths, which are layers of membrane around a tendon that protect and provide nutrition to the tendons3 in your hands and feet.4
Gout May Lead to These Complications
Immediate treatment of this illness is crucial, since complications can arise from it. One is the formation of tophi, or lumps of uric acid crystals that emerge below the skin surrounding an infected joint.5
These lumps are painful and can lead to soft tissue damage and deformity, joint destruction, and nerve compression syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome.6
Kidney damage because of the proliferation of kidney stones could also occur with gout.7 According to Dr. Daniel Solomon of the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
“When you have high levels of uric acid, crystals can collect in your urinary tract and grow into kidney stones that are uric acid-rich.” 8 Cardiovascular disease, lung problems, dry eye syndrome, cataracts, and spinal stenosis are other problems associated with gout.
Stages of Gout
Take note that there are different stages of gout, namely:9
1. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia: the period before the first gout attack wherein there are no symptoms, but uric acid levels are high and crystals are already developing in the joint/s.
2. Acute gout or a gout attack: occurs after your uric acid levels rise or the crystals that formed in the joints move because of certain triggers, such as alcohol consumption. This leads to inflammation and pain that usually strikes at night. Take note that you may feel pain for as long as eight to 12 days, but the symptoms can go away in seven to 10 days.
Around 60 percent of people who experience a gout attack will experience another one within the year, and 84 percent may encounter another attack within three years. Generally, however, some people will never undergo a second gout attack.
3. Interval gout: the time between attacks wherein there’s no pain, but the disease is not gone because low-level inflammation is wreaking havoc on the joints. This is the best time to take the necessary steps in handling the pain to avert future attacks or even chronic gout.
4. Chronic gout: this can affect you if your uric acid levels remain very high over a period of years. There are more frequent attacks, prolonged pain, and even joint damage, leading to mobility loss. If you want to prevent this, you need to have the disease treated and implement changes to your lifestyle.
Cases of gout among children and teens are rare as the disease is more prominent in adults, especially men between the ages of 40 and 50. However, women are known to develop gout after menopause because their bodies severely reduce the production of the estrogen hormone that assists the kidneys in excreting uric acid. If a woman’s estrogen supply is not enough, her uric acid levels rise.10