Gout (cont.)

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What is gout? What is hyperuricemia?

Gout is a disease that results from an overload of uric acid in the body. This overload of uric acid leads to the formation of tiny crystals of urate that deposit in tissues of the body, especially the joints. When crystals form in the joints, it causes recurring attacks of joint inflammation (arthritis). Gout is considered a chronic and progressive disease. Chronic gout can also lead to deposits of hard lumps of uric acid in the tissues, particularly in and around the joints and may cause joint destruction, decreased kidney function, and kidney stones (nephrolithiasis).

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 attack), kidney stones, and blockage of the kidney-filtering tubules with uric acid crystals, leading to kidney failure. On the other hand, some people may only develop elevated blood uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) without having manifestations of gout, such as arthritis or kidney problems. The state of elevated levels of uric acid in the blood without symptoms is referred to as asymptomatic hyperuricemia. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia is considered a precursor state to the development of gout. The term gout refers the disease that is caused by an overload of uric acid in the body, resulting in painful arthritic attacks and deposits of lumps of uric acid crystals in body tissues.

Gouty arthritis is typically an extremely painful attack with a rapid onset of joint inflammation. The joint inflammation is precipitated by deposits of uric acid crystals in the joint fluid (synovial fluid) and joint lining (synovial lining). Intense joint inflammation occurs as the immune system reacts, causing white blood cells to engulf the uric acid crystals and chemical messengers of inflammation to be released, leading to pain, heat, and redness of the joint tissues. As gout progresses, the attacks of gouty arthritis typically occur more frequently and often in additional joints.


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