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What causes gout?

The symptoms of gout are caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood, which can sometimes lead to the formation of uric acid crystals in your joints. These crystals cause your joint to become inflamed and swollen and can cause quite a lot of pain. It is a type of arthritis.

Having uric acid in your blood is completely normal. Excess levels are normally filtered out by your kidneys, so you get rid of it in your urine, but sometimes they can’t get rid of it quickly enough, which can result in a gout attack.

It’s often referred to as a gout attack because the condition develops quite suddenly (acutely), and often happen whilst you are asleep. Gout used to be put down to eating too much rich food and drinking too much alcohol, but it is more more complex than that - we’ll cover that later on.

If you have severe pain in one of your joints (most commonly it happens in the big toe, knee, elbow, finger or wrist) and it comes on suddenly, you should see a GP. The skin covering the joint may also be swollen, red or hot to touch. If you have severe pain and a fever, call 111, or see a GP urgently, as this is a sign of infection.

Gout does need to be treated to prevent complications in the future.

What triggers gout

The main cause of gout is, as we’ve mentioned above, a build up of uric acid in the blood. Having this doesn’t always necessarily mean you’ll get the condition and sometimes there’s no particular reason why this build-up happens, but other times there are things that can contribute to it:

  • Your genes - your kidneys may not be as effective as other people's when it comes to flushing out uric acid and this problem can run in families.
  • Being overweight means you’re more at risk of developing gout.
  • Being deficient in vitamin C can also mean you’re more at risk of gout.
  • If you drink a lot of drinks that have a high level of fructose, it can increase your chances.
  • Drinking a lot of alcohol (beer and spirits in particular) can cause high levels of uric acid in your blood.
  • Eating a diet rich in red meat, offal (hearts, lungs etc.) and seafood (herring, sardines etc.) can also increase the levels of uric acid.
  • Some medications can increase your risk, such as diuretics (water tablets), beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin and some medications used to treat high cholesterol.
  • If you have another condition, such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, psoriasis, diabetes, your body may not be able to process the uric acid as it should.
  • A knock or injury to a joint can also trigger the condition, as it can cause crystals of uric acid to become loose in your joint.

Who gets gout?

Gout is more common in men and typically affects those aged between 40 and 50. Women who have been through the menopause are also more likely to develop the condition. It can affect both younger and older people though.

How Push Doctor can help?

You can contact a Push Doctor GP at a time that suits you about gout, from 6am to 11pm, seven days a week. You can use any device and have an online consultation at any location, be that your home, at work or while you are on the go.