Gout is medical condition characterized by abnormally elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, recurring attacks of joint inflammation (arthritis), deposits of hard lumps of uric acid in and around the joints, and decreased kidney function and kidney stones.
Gout has the unique distinction of being one of the most frequently recorded medical illnesses throughout history. It is often related to an inherited abnormality in the body's ability to process uric acid. Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines, that are part of many foods we eat. An abnormality in handling uric acid can cause attacks of painful arthritis (gout), kidney stones, and blockage of the kidney tubules with uric acid crystals, leading to kidney failure. On the other hand, some patients may only develop elevated blood uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) without arthritis or kidney problems.
The term "gout" commonly is used to refer to the painful arthritis attacks. It derives from an ancient term "gutta" which referred to arthritis at the base of the big toe over 2000 years ago.
The uric acid crystals were first noted with a microscope by Antonj van Leeuwenhoek in 1684. Alfred Garrod first described the uric acid crystals in the tissues of the skin and joints of patients with gout.
For more information, please visit the Gout Center at MedicineNet.com.
Last Editorial Review: 12/30/2004