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 hips1 aren’t spared either.2
The word gout means “a drop,” derived from the Latin word “gutta.” People with the disease initially thought that the pain was caused by disproportionate amounts of four types of “humors,” or body fluids said to determine a person’s well-being. The assumption was that the immense pain came from excess amounts of humors that “dropped” into a particular joint.3
Where Does Gout Manifest?
Apart from your joints, gout also affects the bursae in your body. These are thin, slippery sacs that provide some support to the bones and soft tissues. In particular, the olecranon bursa in your elbow and the prepatellar bursa in your kneecap are most prone to gout flare-ups.4 Gout attacks can also spread to the tendon sheaths, or the two membrane layers around tendons,5,6 that are responsible for proper body movement.7
Immediate treatment of this illness is crucial, since complications can arise from it. One is the formation of tophi, or lumps of uric acid, below the skin surrounding an infected joint.8 The Primary Care Dermatology Society notes that these lumps are painful and may result in extensive soft tissue injuries, joint damage and nerve compression syndromes like carpal tunnel syndrome.9 Other health problems that have been linked to gout include:
• Kidney damage because of kidney stones10
• Cardiovascular disease11
• Dry eye syndrome and cataracts12
• Spinal stenosis13
Four Stages of Gout
Take note that there are different stages of gout, namely:14
1. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia — As the name implies, the patient may not notice any signs of gout. However, the body’s uric acid levels are already elevated and some crystals begin to already form in the joint/s.
2. Acute gout or a gout attack — It may be characterized by two factors — a great increase of uric acid levels in the body or movement of gout crystals in the joints due to triggers like alcohol consumption. A symptom of acute gout or gout attack is inflammation and pain at night, lasting for as long as eight to 12 hours. Oftentimes, the patient can feel pain for a few days, but these can resolve in around seven to 10 days.
When a patient has acute gout or a gout attack, preventive care is needed. While some people will never have a second gout attack, the Arthritis Foundation explains that around 60 percent of people who are affected with a gout attack tend to experience another attack in the same year. Meanwhile, 84 percent of patients may encounter this disease in three years.
3. Interval gout — Patients whose conditions are at this stage do not experience pain. This isn’t all good news, since low-level inflammation may already be damaging the joints. It’s said that gout treatment is best done during this period.
4. Chronic gout — If you fail to address high uric acid levels, you are at great risk for chronic gout. At this point, you may notice more gout attacks and prolonged pain. The disease may greatly impair your joints and trigger mobility loss. To address chronic gout, immediate treatment and lifestyle changes are key.
Who Can Be Affected With Gout?
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,15 because it’s at this stage that their bodies have elevated uric acid levels, and at the same time, don’t have enough estrogen that may help with eliminating the said acid. This imbalance may then predispose a menopausal woman to gout.16
• Gout FAQ