Gout is a type of arthritis that happens when you have too much uric acid in your blood and it forms sharp crystals in one or more of your joints. This usually happens in your big toe, but you also can have gout in your knee, ankle, foot, hand, wrist, or elbow.
Attacks are sudden and cause serious pain, often with redness and swelling around the joint. They usually last 3 to 10 days, but the first 36 hours are typically the most painful. After the first attack, some people don’t have another one for months or maybe years.
Who Gets It?
You’re more at risk if you’re overweight and drink alcohol often. You also might be more likely to have it if you:
- Have a family history of gout
- Take certain diuretics (water pills) that help with high blood pressure or some medicines for rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis
- Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease
- Have had gastric bypass surgery
What Causes It?
Your body makes uric acid to break down a chemical called purine. This chemical is naturally in your body and also in some foods, including red meat, shellfish, and sugary drinks like cola or juice.
In normal amounts, uric acid dissolves in your blood, and leaves your body when you pee. But if your body makes too much uric acid (hyperuricemia) or if it doesn’t get rid of enough of it, crystals form and collect in your joints and cause gout.