What is gout?
Gout is a disease that is caused by a buildup of uric acid that forms crystals (urate crystals) that are deposited in joints in your body. Although the symptoms first appear usually in your big toe, they may also be present in the:
- elbows, and
In addition, these crystals may accumulate in the urinary tract (kidney, ureters) and damage their functions. Gout occurs about nine times more frequently in men than women.
Pain, suddenly occurring and usually at night in the joint of the big toe, is the most common symptom of gout. The pain is intense; you might even feel that a light touch such as touching the bed sheet is intolerable. The joint may develop warmth, swelling, and reddish skin. You may not move the joint normally because of the pain. These symptoms may slowly resolve over a few days even without medication but some gout attacks may last weeks. However, gout is a slowly progressive disease so it is not unusual for you to experience multiple attacks over years. If you have chronic gout (also termed tophaceous gout), you can have several deposits of urate crystals in soft tissues that form visible masses; these masses are called tophi. Although they usually form adjacent to the affected joints, these crystal deposits can be found in many areas of the body. Arthritis can be a complication of gout.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
"Gout." University of Maryland Medical Center.